Alan Solomons: Worcester Warriors needed break from Premiership action

Worcester director of rugby Alan Solomons
Alan Solomons' Worcester are eighth in the Premiership table after winning only one of their past four league games

Premiership rugby returns this weekend after a three-week break.

Although breaks in the Premiership calendar are a regular thing throughout any season, to fit in the two cup competitions, the timing of this one in particular has been unusual.

While the world of English football has been dominated by discussion around the Premier League's first winter break, English club rugby has been enjoying an even longer 'recharging the batteries' respite.

Aside from the four Premiership Cup semi-finalists - Harlequins, Exeter, Sale and Saracens - the other eight sides in the 12-team top flight have enjoyed their joint longest scheduled break of the campaign.

An unnecessary interruption to the momentum following the Premiership's late October start, triggered by the timing of the World Cup? Or a much needed proper break?

Definitely the latter, says Worcester Warriors director of rugby Alan Solomons.

"We so needed it," Solomons told BBC Sport. "We had gone 19 weeks on the bounce before we got a break.

"There's a good reason. It's a World Cup year. And World Cup years can often be like that. Whenever there is a World Cup on, it can make it a difficult year.

"But the staff here needed that break mentally. And the players needed it both physically and mentally."

The lopsidedness of a Premiership league season which did not start until 18 October and will go on to 6 June - with the semi-finals and final after that - means that are there still 13 of the 22 Premiership games to be played.

Admittedly, the clubs in the bottom half have at least been spared any relegation worries by the decision to demote Saracens - and deduct enough points to ensure they finish bottom - for salary cap breaches. And that will help ease the pressure of those final four months.

"The games come in blocks now, " said Solomons. "First a block of four games, then two games, three, two and another two. But with more natural breaks."

All-weather pitch perfect

The other immediate positive for Worcester boss Solomons as they get ready to make their return to action is that, barring intervention by the forecast Storm Dennis, their artificial pitch should help keep Saturday's home date with Bath on.

"The weather conditions may still be tough and Bath have a big old pack. But at least the pitch won't be filthy," smiled Solomons.

"Not like the old days. I still remember some of the pitches back in the day and that fantastic old picture of Fran Cotton covered in mud.

"We have our pitch, so the weather won't stop that. It's what all-weather pitches were invented for. And we always love to play at Sixways, where we get such great support."

Fran Cotton in action for the British & Irish Lions
Fran Cotton (front) in action for the British & Irish Lions during the 1977 tour to New Zealand

'Fine margins'

Solomons also hopes that his side have a happier outcome than the 30-26 defeat by Wasps they suffered in that home game before the break - in what proved to be his opposite number Dai Young's final game at the helm.

"The Wasps game encapsulated for me the high level of this competition," said Solomons. "All the teams are well prepared and well coached. But the margins are extremely fine.

"We had a moment at the end when we could have won it and instead ended up giving away a penalty. I was chatting to Wasps centre Jimmy Gopperth after the game and he admitted it could have gone either way.

"They won it with a great try but even that got a favourable bounce."

Yet when Scotland international Duncan Weir tried the same chip and chase manoeuvre as Wasps winger Zach Kibirige in the first half, he did not get the bounce.

"That was exactly Jimmy Gopperth's comment after," said Solomons. "That's rugby. Duncan's kick doesn't quite bounce for him. Their kick does."

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