LUCKLESS Malvern Rugby Club have suffered a further big blow in their difficult season after player-coach Alan Keylock left the club.

The former England under 18s back-rower has opted to retire from rugby after again breaking his foot in last month’s Midlands One West defeat to Walsall.

However, the influential forward won’t be continuing in a coaching capacity at Spring Lane as he has accepted a new job overseas and will be leaving the country next week.

Third-from-bottom Malvern’s latest defeat in a tough campaign saw them thrashed 72-26 at Burton.

But club chiefs remain confident they can avoid back-to-back relegations by winning at least three of their remaining six matches.

Malvern face third-placed Hereford at Spring Lane tomorrow (3pm) and the players are confident, despite regular poor turn-outs to training continuing to hamper their preparations.

Club spokesman Peter Woods said: “People not turning up for training has been a problem all season.

"We haven’t had the numbers we should have had, but you can’t tell whether people are just making up excuses or not.

“We have an excellent set-up with Gloucester full-back Rob Cook coming in to coach the backs alongside head coach Nick Tisdale, with England under 18s coach Peter Walton helping out.

“You would have thought a team like that would ensure a better turn-out for training, but we just don’t get the numbers we need and that is reflected when the team goes out on a Saturday.

“We have had to make up to nine changes to the team from one week to the next and that lack of consistency makes life very difficult.”

With promoted Worcester Wanderers replacing relegated Malvern in National Three South West this season, the Sixways side became the area’s highest-ranked side.

Subsequently, the Worcester oufit have now usurped Malvern as the club linked to the University of Worcester, which means the top student rugby players are joining Wanderers.

Woods added: “Not only do Worcester Wanderers have free facilities provided by the Warriors, they now also have the pick of the best university players.

“We had four or five players from the university in our first team every week last year and not having them has made a big difference.

“We have to find £100,000-a-year running costs, so relegation would be a disaster for Malvern both on and off the field.”