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Sixways revolution is beginning to pay off.

Byline: Brian Dick Rugby Correspondent @briandick

THERE'S been a bit of public relations revision at Sixways this week as the reality of Worcester's Premiership plight finally became uncontestable.

The morale-boosting victory over Newcastle has been followed by losses to Exeter and Bath, which have left Warriors needing to win their two remaining matches to avoid relegation to the Championship. The fact the first of those comes this weekend at Saracens, the Premiership leaders and probably the best team in Europe, means no amount of spin can obscure the position the Sixways side are in.

Saracens produced what Dean Ryan described as 'the best club performance I have ever seen' in dismissing Clermont Auvergne's lavishly-financed ambitions last Saturday.

They reached the final of the Heineken Cup for the first time with a display of unparalleled ferocity that came as close to combining fire in the belly with ice in the brain as any English club ever has.

One-win Worcester aren't even in the same stratosphere and if this weekend's appointment at the Allianz Arena is 'must-win', the obvious question is: How? The reality of that situation compelled Ryan to rightly point out that while Worcester's fate might be decided by events on Saturday, the course of that fate was decided by what happened, or didn't, several months ago.

"We were pretty clear at the beginning, this squad was susceptible to relegation if we didn't get off to a good start," Ryan claimed. "That doesn't take me to tell anyone that, I think anyone can see that.

"We are disappointed it took us to the new year to get this group moving. That's potentially some of the surprise.

"I think if we had got this squad moving earlier we might not have found ourselves in this position - but we didn't.

"I thought we would get a quicker bounce with a new management group. I didn't realise how insecure the (playing) group was and how multilayered the problems were." It is difficult to dispute much of that. Any 'bounce' was evident more in word than deed, Warriors' players talked a good game without playing one for several months.

And had they managed to find their current level just a few weeks earlier, they would surely have put enough pressure on a modest Newcastle team to send the Falcons down in their stead.

But what does stick out from Ryan's thoughts is how they contrast to his public admonishment of the Worcester News rugby writer following Warriors' 40-6 defeat at Exeter in October.

The DOR was asked then if relegation was a concern and the response was prickly, to say the least. "Relegation isn't part of the conversation yet and I don't see why it should be," he bristled. "That doesn't mean we don't recognise the hole we are in. To be talking about relegation, especially from a local paper, I think is pretty poor."

One wonders how that squares with this week's contention that Warriors were 'pretty clear at the beginning' about the prospect of demotion.

In short, the media have been asked to both beat the drum and embrace cold reality in the space of a single season.

Nevertheless, what can't be denied is that Ryan and his team of coaches, Shane Howarth, Carl Hogg and Nick Johnstone, have turned things round.

Things started to move in December when matches with Gloucester and Saracens produced only a single point but a notable increase in intensity.

That flickered in strength like a candle in front of an open window but gradually the light became stronger and for the last eight league matches Ryan's team have been operating at a Premiership level. Indeed, their last game against Bath was the first time since February 22 they have not taken at least one point from a league match - and even then they probably deserved a couple as they pestered Mike Ford's men to distraction.

"I think there is a lot of progress across a number of areas. The first priority was to get good coaching and I knew it would start to move,'' said Ryan.

"The key is now getting more people in the middle of it that really want to get better. I am pleased how we are doing that.

"We have a lot of challenges we will be mapping out over the next few weeks to make sure that comes, because a club is not just about those 35-40 people out there, it's about all the functions that sit around it.

"A year down the line I am obviously disappointed we are fighting against relegation with two games to go. But I am pretty pleased with how everybody has gone around making sure things are right, we don't find ourselves in this situation in the future and whatever we build now is sustainable and able to make progress."

And that there will be no need for PR revision at the end of another season.

'"I thought we would get a quicker bounce with a new management group. I didn't realise how insecure the playing group was and how multi-layered the problems were.

DEAN RYAN
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 1, 2014
Words:851
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