The Early Days
Worcester Rugby Football Club dates back to 1871 and owes its foundations to the cleric Rev Francis John Eld. The playing side made their first outing on November 8 1871 against the Worcester Artillery at Somerset Place. In 1893 the Club moved to Pitchcroft and a field adjoining Worcestershire County Cricket Club at New Road. Unfortunately in 1896 the Club was disbanded.
In 1908 the Club was revived and played matches at Pitchcroft and Northwick. In 1913 only one game was played against Gloucester Franciscans before the onset of World War I.
The Club was reborn following the end of World War I, with their first match coming away at Bromsgrove. A number of new recruits from Malvern, Droitwich, Pershore and Bromyard led the committee to create an A and B team. The Club continued to grow during the 1920s, playing in the traditional colours of narrow band yellow on blue.
During the 1920s the Club was lucky to have several players with first-class experience: H K Evans (Cardiff & Bristol), F Youd (Cheshire), C F Walters (Neath), F Williams (Glamorgan Wanderers), J N Poynder (Devon & Lancashire), M Averill (Bristol), The Rec JTB Evans (Royal Navy), WJ Hughson (Pontypool), AP Atkins (RAF & Ireland).
The 1930s were a very strong period for the Club, helped by a talented team and a good community spirit. During the 1931/32 season the Club played 30 games, winning 27 of them.
The decade saw the team having problems with their grounds, however, and having to move from various playing sites which resulted in the team negotiating and paying a deposit on their own ground opposite the Ketch Inn in Kempsey. When World War II broke out, the Club lost its deposit.
The war made regular matches difficult and the Club took a break at the start of the decade before restarting in 1945. Following the disappointment of the ground in Kempsey, the Club secured land at Claines and the first game was played there in November 1945.
The following year, bad weather prevented a full season and saw the Club move to a new home by the canal at Perdiswell. That season also saw the formation of the Ground Purchase and Development fund.
At the end of the 1940s the location of the Club changed again with the headquarters moving to the Old Talbot Hotel in Sidbury and the home ground to Bilford Road.
The Club was now settled at home on Bilford Road and, with a series of successful seasons, the decision was made to try and improve the facilities which resulted in a shed being purchased to serve as a players’ cloakroom and shelter.
The Club embarked on its first Easter Tour in 1953, playing in Weston-super-Mare.
January 15, 1954 went down as an important day in the Club’s history as it was the first time that a new ground at Bevere was mentioned as a possible purchase. The move happened quickly and the official opening of the new home took place on September 5, 1956.
In 1955 it was decided that the Club should have a chairman and G.H Day was first to be elected.
The Club entered the 1960s having made great strides with regards to the playing strength of the side and the facilities of the clubhouse at Bevere. The growth meant there were now five senior teams and two colts teams competing.
In 1965 it was reported by joint Hon Treasurer David Payner that the Club was in a very unstable position financially.
The playing strength saw the Club have two peaks in 1966/67 with the first-team having the best season in the Club’s history to date with 27 victories under the leadership of Peter Baxter.
The Club entered the 1970s in a strong position. The Club continued to play at Bevere for the early part of the 70s before a move was secured to Sixways.
The official opening of the new site took place on September 4, 1975 with the ribbon cut by world-famous Ireland international Mike Gibson MBE. A few months later the floodlights were used on September 24 as a President’s XV took on a Public Schools XV.
The Club celebrated its centenary in 1971 and reached the North Midlands Cup final in the 1976/1977 season, before losing 13-10 to Dudley Kingswinford. In 1977/78 the Club won the North Midlands Sevens.
The Club ended the 70s in good health with the first-team even going on tour to France.
The Club entered the 1980s eager to build on its growing stature from the previous decade – and enjoyed great success on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Club embarked on a tour to Canada and USA in May 1980 and, before the tour, received a letter from Downing Street penned by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
In the 1980/81 season the first-team played 45 games, securing 19 wins. The team tasted success as they won the Worcester Sevens in September, which was hosted at Sixways.
The Club again bolstered international relations with the USA before the end of the decade when they entertained Fort Worth Rugby Football Club in 1986.
The following season the Club again made the trip to America and this time included a trip to Worcester in Massachusetts. The two teams with the same name met on September 26, 1987.
The Club enjoyed unprecedented success in the 90s and rocketed up through the leagues.
In 1992 the Club had plans to develop and construct a training shed to provide facilities for young rugby players in the youth and mini category.
David Hallmark, the then Chairman, in consultation with North Midlands RFU, made an application for a much more sophisticated facility which was made by the Sports Council in 1995.
Most crucially, the decade saw the arrival of Cecil Duckworth who was able to drive the Club forward thanks to his significant investment. It was Mr Duckworth who supported the Lottery bid that saw a grant of £1.3million awarded to the Club. With his guidance the Club enjoyed huge success, changing beyond all recognition in the space of a few years.
National Division Five and Four were conquered and in 1997 the Club again won promotion to Jewson One. Promotion to Allied Dunbar Premier Division Two followed in the 1999/2000 season – before the division was renamed the First Division.
When the game went professional in 1996, Duckworth decided that if the Club was going to be successful it also had to be professional and go full-time.
Les Cusworth arrived to lead the Club. However, an administration mistake proved the defining moment as the Club lost out on promotion to the very highest level at the first attempt as points were deducted for fielding Tom Robinson, who was not properly registered.
Worcester started the decade in National Division One and were denied a place in the elite until the 2003/2004 season, when, under the guidance of John Brain, the Club finally made it.
Worcester Warriors were promoted to the Premiership after winning the title with a perfect record of 26 wins from 26 games in the 2003/04 season after adopting their new name the previous season. The Club defied the odds to stay in the top-flight in their first season after a memorable campaign.
In the 2005/06 season the Club avoided relegation again and safety was secured long before the final-day drama. The season culminated in an eighth-place finish in the league, one place higher than the previous campaign. In Europe Warriors made the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup but lost out to local rivals Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm.
Despite some final-day drama in the 2006/07 season, Warriors stayed up at the expense of Northampton Saints and kept their status in the top-flight for a further three years before being relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season.
However, the Club did experience some fine European campaigns during this period.
In 2008, a fine run saw them edged 24-17 by Bath Rugby in the European Challenge Cup final at Kingsholm and the following season Bourgoin denied Warriors a second consecutive appearance in the showpiece event.
Warriors suffered relegation under Mike Ruddock in 2009/10 but bounced straight back to the Premiership at the first time of asking following a superb season in the Championship under Head Coach Richard Hill.
Hill’s men topped the league, winning 21 of their 22 regular league matches before claiming victory in all six of their pool matches to ensure a home semi-final in the play-offs.
Warriors held their nerve to edge Bedford Blues 23-22 in the semis before defeating Cornish Pirates in both legs of the final to ensure they would be back in the promised land of the top flight.
The 2011/12 season saw Warriors consolidate a place in the Premiership after beating the likes of Northampton Saints, Saracens and Bath Rugby to secure a tenth-place finish.
In 2012/13, Hill’s men started the season brightly with victories over London Irish, Sale Sharks and Saracens but the second-half of the campaign witnessed just one win in the final 11 games. That left Warriors just one place above the relegation zone and the departure of Hill was confirmed with two matches remaining.
A summer of change followed in 2013 with the appointment of Dean Ryan as Director of Rugby, who completely changed the focus of the Club to focus on long-term progression.
Ryan couldn’t prevent relegation during his first season in charge but started to target signings who he could develop into top-end players.
Ryan, together with High Performance Director Nick Johnston also built behind the scenes, with the recruitment of the necessary backroom staff to offer players essential off-the-field medical, nutrition and strength and conditioning support.
The Club also launched six Junior Academy Centres across the West Midlands and the wider region to ensure the future of the Club was a positive one where young players could be developed into first-team stars further down the line.
Warriors went on to enjoy a remarkable 2014/15 campaign as they won the British & Irish Cup after winning all nine of their games, while second-string side Worcester Cavaliers reached the Aviva A League final for the first time in their history.
And at the first time of asking, Warriors were promoted back to the Aviva Premiership after two nail-biting ties against Bristol Rugby in the Greene King IPA Championship final. Two tries in the final five minutes of the second leg, and a last kick of the game from Ryan Lamb saw Warriors win 59-58 on aggregate to return to the top-flight.
Warriors’ first season back in the Aviva Premiership during the 2015/16 campaign was a successful one following the redevelopment of the Indoor Training Centre, which became a state-of-the-art High Performance Centre to give Warriors some of the best training facilities in the country.
On the pitch Warriors secured a tenth-placed finish and started to make real progress with seven victories.
It was a season of firsts at Sixways as Warriors recorded a Club-record four consecutive Premiership victories before South Africa international Francois Hougaard became the Club’s first-ever player to win the Aviva Premiership Player of the Month award for his performances throughout March.
Hougaard soon put pen to paper on a permanent deal with Warriors, while Warriors also signed the likes of Ben Te’o and Jackson Willison ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.
And there was also one other major development off the pitch as Warriors announced the major news that the Sixways turf would become an Artificial Grass Pitch ahead of the 2016/17 season.
There was success within the Academy as 17 players received England age-group honours. Huw Taylor, Andrew Kitchener, Jack Singleton, Sam Ripper-Smith and Jamie Shillcock were all included in the England Under 20s RBS 6 Nations squad, before Taylor, Singleton and Kitchener were instrumental in helping England win the World Rugby Under 20 Championship during the summer of 2016.
The Journey Continues
Following Dean Ryan’s departure in June 2016, Head Coach Carl Hogg and High Performance Director Nick Johnston shared overall responsibility for rugby matters. Warriors started the season well as they secured Aviva Premiership draws with Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks before seeing off Newcastle Falcons. However, following a tough run of results at the back end of 2016, Gary Gold was appointed as Director of Rugby initially until the end of the 2016/17 season.
Gold instantly injected confidence into the players as the side won three of his first five games in charge. Gold was able to lead his side to an unexpected victory over Premiership and European champions Saracens before Warriors brushed aside Bristol Rugby and Bath Rugby in front of sell-out Sixways crowds to secure the Club’s place in the Aviva Premiership.
There were huge successes for some of the Club’s youngsters during the season as Academy quartet Josh Adams, Jamie Shillcock, Jack Singleton and Huw Taylor all signed first-team contracts. On the international front Singleton joined teammates Perry Humphreys, Ryan Mills, Nick Schonert and Will Spencer in the England training squad and was selected to travel to Argentina as part of England’s summer tour in 2017.
Warriors were also represented on the biggest stage of all as Ben Te’o was named as part of the British & Irish Lions squad which travelled to New Zealand. The centre started the first Test as the series ended in a draw.
Gold signed a contract extension to lead the Club during the 2017/18 season and was able to recruit the likes of Ireland international Peter Stringer, Scotland international David Denton and talented youngster Tom Howe ahead of another exciting campaign. Gold left the Club at the end of 2017 to take on the role of Head Coach at USA Rugby.
If you would like to contribute any memories or photographs to the Warriors History Section, please contact Tom Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Record of Achievement 1977-2015
1977-78 North Midlands Cup and North Midlands Sevens Winner
1989-90 North Midlands Division One Champions
1990-91 North Midlands Cup Finalists
1992-93 Midlands Division Two Champions
1993-94 North Midlands Cup Finalists
1994-95 Whitbread Flowers & Rugby World Junior Club of the Year
1995-96 North Midlands Cup Winners
1995-96 National Division Five North Champions
1996-97 National Division Four North Champions
1996-97 North Midlands Cup Finalists
1997-98 Jewsons National League One Champions
1997-98 North Midlands Cup Winners
1997-98 Powerline Floodlit Cup Winners
1999-00 Allied Dunbar Premiership Division Two
2003-04 National Division One Champions
2004-05 European Shield Finalists
2007-08 Middlesex Sevens Finalists
2007-08 European Challenge Cup Finalists
2010-11 Championship Winners
2014-15 British & Irish Cup Winners
2014-15 Greene King IPA Championship Winners
Life under Alan Solomons
Alan Solomons joined the Club in the autumn of 2017 to support Gary Gold and took over as Director of Rugby when Gold left to join USA as Head Coach at the start of 2018.
Solomons’ first win as Director of Rugby came in the Anglo-Welsh Cup as Warriors dispatched Exeter Chiefs in January 2018, before the South African steered his side to their first ever win at Sandy Park against the same opponents two weeks later in a Premiership match.
Warriors picked up further Premiership wins against Gloucester Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and Harlequins as they finished the 2017/18 season 14 points above bottom side London Irish.
Solomons built his own coaching team in the summer of 2018 and was able to attract Scotland duo Duncan Weir and Cornell du Preez, South Africa international Francois Venter and Wales international Ashley Beck to the Club.
He also started to bring through talented youngsters such as Ted Hill and Ollie Lawrence in his second season in charge.
Hill’s talents were recognised by Eddie Jones when he made his England debut against Japan in the 2018 autumn internationals at the age of 19, just two months after Solomons had handed the youngster his Premiership debut.
Under Solomons, Warriors recorded their biggest ever Premiership victory when they thrashed Bristol Bears 52-7 at Sixways in October 2018.
Warriors beat Bristol both home and away during the 2018/19 season, and also secured memorable league victories over Leicester Tigers (twice), Harlequins, Bath Rugby – in the 19th minute of stoppage time – and Sale Sharks as they impressed in one of the tightest-ever Premiership campaigns.
Warriors went on to reach the knockout stages of the European Challenge Cup for the first time in a decade and the semi-finals of the inaugural Premiership Rugby Cup where they hosted Saracens at Sixways.
Victory over Gloucester at Sixways ensured Premiership status with two matches of the season to go and the season ended with a last-gasp 31-29 victory over soon-to-be-crowned champions Saracens.