Worcester Warriors Head Coach Carl Hogg admitted his side couldn’t play the way they wanted as they were knocked out of the European Challenge Cup by Brive on Saturday.
Due to a waterlogged pitch, a four-and-half-hour delay till kick-off and the game being moved to nearby Stade Alexandre Cueille in Tulle – a 40-minute bus ride away – meant the game was able to go ahead with both sides searching for a win to book their place in the knockout stages of Europe.
And Brive won the contest 33-7 to deny Hogg’s men a place in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009.
He said: “It was a tough day. We pitched up at the Stade Amedee-Domenech and the field was clearly unplayable with standing water. Brive as the host side had to come up with an alternative venue.
“The conditions in Tulle provided difficult conditions to play any level of rugby. Ultimately it suited their style as they have a huge forward pack and they were able to squeeze us and hold high field position so overall it was a disappointing day.”
The far-from-ideal preparations for the game were no excuse for Hogg, who knows his side were overpowered up front by a monstrous Brive front five on the day.
He revealed: “Obviously it was a disruptive day and I thought we did well to reset ourselves. We had a good warm-up so it wasn’t an issue with energy or application, it was a case of playing on a ground that didn’t allow any free-flowing rugby at all and, in fact, there were times when it suited not having the ball in conditions that were very heavy under foot.
“There was no lack of endeavour and energy. We were asked to defend for long, long periods of time especially inside our 22 but the conditions dictated that it was always going to be an arm wrestle and when you’re against a massive front five of a Top 14 side, it’s difficult to play any rugby.”
Although the pitch was in a slightly better state in Tulle than in Brive, conditions were still treacherous for rugby with heavy rain causing both teams to try and adapt.
And Hogg explained: “It rained throughout the contest and it’s an environment which Brive function very well in. They squeezed us around scrum and drive and kicked well with ball out of hand. We never really got the game on our agenda.
“Had it have been a dry track and we’d have been able to get some tempo in the game then it may have been a different contest but it was about the base layer of the game and Brive outmuscled us.”
Warriors’ focus now switches to Saturday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup game with Exeter Chiefs and Hogg revealed it will be a strong side that plays back at Sixways against the reigning Premiership champions.
He added: “It’s a different competition. We will look to load that side towards a Premiership-looking team so when we’re back on our track we can play some rugby.
“This weekend was difficult as it never really got to a two or three-pass game. It was very much about set-piece rugby and holding high field position and sometimes conditions dictate that and that’s a lesson for us to learn but hopefully we can get the game at a tempo next week against Exeter.”
Hogg also explained the process behind Warriors’ selection across the competitions.
He added: “It’s about managing players across a nine-month period. Yes we’d like to go strong in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and European Challenge Cup but the Aviva Premiership is paramount for us.
“Therefore our selection is about making sure people in the squad get opportunities but also that we protect some of the players that are playing in the Premiership.
“We did take the Challenge Cup seriously, we got ourselves into the last round to give ourselves an opportunity to go through but in hindsight if we’d have got five points against Connacht at home then we’d have got through so that was a missed opportunity.”