IN round six of the current Aviva Premiership campaign, Worcester Warriors were hammered 40-6 at Exeter Chiefs.
The defeat was their sixth consecutive loss – two of which were at home to would-be relegation rivals Newcastle Falcons and London Irish – and the signs were already looking ominous.
In the post-match press conference at Sandy Park, I asked Dean Ryan if he was concerned by the prospect of relegation.
The Warriors director of rugby fixed me with his trademark steely glare and proceeded to tell me that my question was ‘poor from the local paper’.
Hindsight, however, is a wonderful thing and Ryan is now singing from a different hymn sheet as his side face up to the prospect of being relegated this weekend.
Ahead of tomorrow’s season-defining trip to high-flying Saracens, Worcester find themselves in the unenviable position of having to win at Allianz Park to have any chance of maintaining their top-flight status.
The topic of relegation cropped up again in this week’s Sixways press conference, but Ryan’s reaction was markedly different, almost to suggest he was resigned to the fact when he inherited a threadbare squad from Richard Hill last summer.
“I have been pretty clear from the beginning that this squad was susceptible to relegation if we didn’t get off to a good start,” Ryan said, overlooking his Exeter outburst.
“It doesn’t take me to say that – anyone can see that. I think we were more disappointed that it took until the New Year to get this group moving.
“If we had got this squad moving earlier, we might not have found ourselves in this position, but we didn’t.
“We came in as a new management to a group that was pretty insecure and I thought we’d get a quicker bounce, but we didn’t.
“I didn’t realise how insecure the group were and how multi-layered the problems were. Because of that, we are scrapping around now and trying to survive.”
Ryan also insisted that next season will be another tough campaign for the club, regardless of which division they will be in.
He explained: “If we survive in the Premiership, you look at our squad and see it is pretty young, so we would have to live with that.
“From the recruitment point of view, it is not realistic to think we could get current internationals to come here –that is the mindset, so we have to start again.
“Irrespective of where we are next year, it would be tough. This young squad in the Premiership would find it tough.
“We have made our decisions as a strategic direction we want the club to go in, so it will be tough whichever league we’re in.
“But what was important was that the club made a change to the way it went about its business and started putting the right people in place so it could grow.”