Mike Ruddock believes his Worcester Warriors have made significant progress this season – and that they can take on Newcastle Falcons in front of the TV cameras at Sixways Stadium on Friday night with confidence.
Worcester are through to the European Challenge cup semi-finals for only the second time with next month’s final guaranteed to be an all-English affair
“Newcastle are going to be a tough opposition,” said Director of Rugby Ruddock.
“They really don’t have many weaknesses. They are a side full of quality players, particularly in the back line with the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood, and they can be very dangerous.
“We know they like to play with a lot of width and look to move the ball away from the set-piece. They play in a similar style to Bath, punishing you if you lose shape in defence and, with Wilkinson’s boot, we have to make sure our discipline is strong. We need to seize the initiative and try and control the game.”
With Leeds Carnegie already relegated, Ruddock added: “Although Premiership survival is clearly important, nothing has changed really since our survival was assured – we have been trying to play with freedom all season which has probably cost us games at times.
“The side had always been encouraged to play low-risk rugby, keeping it in hand in the tackle, and this season we have gone against that, encouraging the guys to off load in the tackle, trying to put the ball into space and looking to attack space.
“It’s been a difficult transition and there are times when we have struggled, particularly in our decision making.
“Having said that, we had a great game against Bath Rugby last weekend and, although we lost, we scored good tries and nearly got a victory against one of the best attacking teams in the Premiership. We’ve come a long way this season.
“Playing in the European Challenge Cup has greatly benefited our team as a whole. We were not strong enough this season to play in the Heineken Cup, but, if we are able to win this tournament, then I think we will be up to the task for next season.
“We have been able to work on our rugby style and sample other rugby cultures, particularly in France.
“The away win against Montauban was great for building confidence in the side and then to have played a good match against Montpellier, who put in a strong performance in the quarter-finals, was great for us to focus on the way we play.”