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Rugby Union: BRAIN: A SPOT OF ROTHER WILL NOT WORRY US; Warriors vow to battle for place.

Byline: BEN MOTTRAM

WORCESTER director of rugby John Brain has vowed that the on-going saga surrounding the club's promotion will not disrupt his preparations for Premiership rugby.

The Warriors had expected to have their entry into the top flight rubberstamped this week following an England Rugby Ltd (ERL) board meeting.

However, Rotherham, the club due to be replaced by Worcester, are angry that the runaway National One winners are even under consideration for promotion after failing to meet a planning deadline.

Two years ago Rotherham were denied promotion in similar circumstances when their ground, Clifton Lane, failed to meet the required standards and they have now threatened legal action if the Warriors are given the green light.

The delay has incensed Brain who has already brought nine new players -including Pat Sanderson from Harlequins, former Australia international Tom Bowman and Clive Stuart-Smith from Leeds Tykes -to Sixways with the lure of Premiership rugby.

But he has defiantly claimed that his plans will not be derailed by off-field antics and insists his summer shopping spree will continue.

'All this has had no impact on our preparations. If they wanted to disrupt us and knock us off course then they simply haven't done that,' said Brain.

'I have every confidence that everything hasbeendone correctly andwe will be vindicated this week.

'We are pressing on regardless. They might be doing this to try to slow up our recruitment process, but if that is the case the message is they haven't succeeded. 'We've got four more positions that we are looking to fill and talks are progressing well. I expect them to be concluded in the next two weeks and our squad finalised.

'We are still looking at a hooker, a tight-head prop, a winger who can play in the centre and a versatile full-back.

'People may say we have not signed the big names but if we see a player who is the right quality and the right price and has the right attitude then we make a move for him. We never focus on big names.' Brain admitted that he felt the ERL had no option but to delay a decision on Worcester's promotion after the fear of legal proceedings reared its head.

But he warned that the annual dispute over Zurich Premiership relegation and promotion was doing the sport no favours.

'We won the league on April 10 and we are still waiting for a final decision. That really is a very poor way to runany ship,' he said.

'This situation, which happens every year, damages the image of the sport.

'When West Brom won promotion from the Football League all their players, managers and supporters knew they were up and could celebrate.

'In rugby a small group of people can disrupt this and we are unfortunately caught in the middle. Unless something is done then the very same thing will happen next season.'

Brain's comments have been echoed by chairman Cecil Duckworth who is no doubt over the legality of his club's right to take their place in the Premiership and who took a swipe at Rotherham by labelling their objections a 'joke'.

Many believe the South Yorkshire club are acting out of spite following the bad blood between Duckworth and Rotherham owner Mike Yarlett.

It remains unclear how far Rotherham are willing to push their objections -much will depend on the ERL's position after taking legal advice. But Duckworth is adamant that the new-look Warriors will run out as a Premiership team in September.

'We have satisfied the RFU, the auditors and the ERL. It seems rather inappropriate that Rotherham, a club 150 miles up the motorway, are questioning us,' he said.

'It is irritating and spiteful in my opinion but I fully expect the situation to be cleared up tomorrow.

'Lessons need to be learnt from this. It's not good for the image of the sport and makes it look less than professional.'

However, Rotherham remain convinced that precedent should be observed by the ERL when considering Worcester's application.

'Two years ago Rotherham had to acceptourown failure to complywiththe entry criteria on technical grounds and we simply request that all other applicants are similarly judged and the same standards applied,' said owner Mike Yarlett.

'While we understand the feelings of Worcester players and supporters -as we were in a similar situation two years ago -what we really want now is some clarification on the position for next season.'

CAPTION(S):

DEFIANT: John Brain insists that Worcester can take their place in the Premiership
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 23, 2004
Words:755
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