Worcester’s visit to Kingsholm represents logistically a much easier journey than their long and troubled trip
to Biarritz recently for their game in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby Dean Ryan wasn’t amused, and you can’t blame him.
For older Gloucester supporters, “the” derby match was against Bristol. As Bath emerged as a force, that became the stand out fixture. For Worcester, local rivalry in the Championship came in the form of Coventry and Moseley, but with no west midlands club in the top flight, Gloucester is very much their derby game – for the time being at least.
BBC Gloucestershire summariser Simon Devereux is one of a clutch of men who have served both clubs in the professional era. Other players include Nathan Carter, Thinus Delport, Chris Fortey, Marcel Garvey, Craig Gillies (who was only fleetingly at Kingsholm) and Dave Sims. All of them were at Gloucester first, which makes Matt Kvesic unusual in that he started at Sixways. Add Dean Ryan and John Brain to that list and you can see the traffic
between the clubs has been pretty heavy.
Worcester’s emergence coincided with Cecil Duckworth’s investment into the club, and Tony Windo’s move to the Warriors at the age of 30. 14 years on, the long serving former Gloucester loose head is Director of Rugby at Bromsgrove School, but two mornings a week you find Windo on the Gloucester training ground at Hartpury working with the current squad on scrums, scrums and more scrums.
“When I went to Worcester the idea was I would drop down to the Championship for one season and help them come up” Tony told me. “It took five years in the end which was longer than anybody thought. At the time I was after a new challenge. I’d had a chat with Director of Rugby Philippe Saint-Andre and Trevor Woodman was coming through. Worcester gave me an opportunity and I didn’t have to uproot the family.”
In the end Windo spent 12 years at Worcester. He signed half a dozen one year contracts, which tends to focus your mind and body into putting everything into the next season because each one might be the last. Windo stopped playing in 2008 and turned to coaching, where his long standing friendship with John Brain came to the fore.
“I started my playing career at Gloucester with John, and played under him when he was Director of Rugby at Worcester” said Windo. “His attention to detail is something you crave for as a coach. When I stopped playing I started taking my coaching badges but a lot of my initial beliefs came from how John had coached me. My style has changed and you do develop your own philosophy but I respected him massively and I have tried to emulate him in my own way.”
Worcester come to Kingsholm without a Premiership win but Dean Ryan’s message in recent weeks has been consistent. His team are getting to understand the style he wants, and delivering it for longer portions of matches. The next step is to put an 80 minute performance together that will seal that vital first win, and Windo knows Worcester would like nothing more than to do it against Gloucester.
“This is a vitally important game for both teams. Worcester need a win because the longer they go without a victory the bigger the gap at the bottom will get, but Gloucester need one to ignite the season too. I think the boys have made some big steps in recent weeks and their attitude has been a credit to the club, putting in extra sessions to try and get the set piece back on track. Having Sila Puafisi join us will also give Shaun Knight and Rupert Harden some extra tips and ideas. You’re bound to learn something from an international prop.”
Worcester very nearly won at Kingsholm last season. They aspire to be more than perennial Premiership strugglers but so far have not taken that step that will lift them out of trouble. The gap between the two teams is 11 points and Worcester have to haul a side in closer to them if they are to escape. The clock is ticking, but it is for Gloucester too. Five home defeats before Christmas is almost unheard of. The result, for one team, will make it a very happy Christmas. I hope you enjoy yours.
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