When you think of heavyweights set to storm up the table, you often think of resurgences from clubs such as Sale, Bath and Harlequins. Those sides always feel just a few acquisitions away from top four contention. However, if I was to tell you that Worcester could not only be a favourite for top six Rugby, but also have made signings that are strong enough to get them battling for the playoffs, you would think I'm absolutely mad... Here is why I think Worcester Warriors are having the BEST transfer window in the Premiership.
I'll kick it off with the bad news and get that straight out of the way. Weir leaving for Glasgow is a massive loss to this young Worcester side. His stability, pragmatism and leadership will be sorely missed in a backline that was just beginning to get motoring. He has often been the difference in close games against top six opposition; he's a genuinely classy operator. When you look at his age profile and see that this is the last year of his physical prime, it's probably fair to offload a player that wants to reignite their national ambitions anyway. It's obviously a huge let-down, but it's also an inevitability with all factors considered. Also, if young Billy Searle can find a stretch of fitness or Jamie Shillcock can influence some of the bigger clashes, Weir's departure suddenly becomes far less severe.
Before I dive into the recent transfers, it's also fair to say that Worcester have a surprisingly deep squad. You have a lot of sides in the league choosing the marquee signing strategy each window, but Worcester have added some key fringe players that have kept their rotation options plentiful and fresh. With many top teams hitting around the thirty mark for their first team squad, Worcester are carrying a squad of fifty that also has one of the best age profiles in the league. That will likely drop down a bit with the likes of Hougaard likely to leave, but a fifth of that squad are newly promoted academy players. It's not bloated or full of dead wood, it's full of hungry, underrated, blossoming starlets that are ready to make an instant impact and aren't draining the salary budget.
Then you start to throw the following into the mix: Duhan van der Merwe (25), Jack Owlett (25), Christian Judge (28) and Will Chudley (30). You have an amazing mix of international experience, top level Premiership experience, physical profile and leadership there and in key areas that Worcester have needed to address. With a back three of Ashton, van der Merwe and Pennell, it might not be the youngest back field but there is tonnes of cutting edge and individual brilliance there. Chudley is also a fantastic Scrum Half with a strong Premiership pedigree; at 30, he doesn't play in a particularly abrasive position so you should get at least 2/3 years of top performance out of him. Difficult to state how Judge will do as we only have a finite amount of examples of his first team calibre, but again, he's a top half talent that should be able to transition into this dressing room fairly easily.
Despite losing their last five games, I still think there are positives from the most recent performances. Narrowly losing to Exeter and Sale is an achievement all in itself; in the Exeter game you could argue that they deserved to win. With the new players arriving, perhaps those games get tipped the other way and Worcester start closing out these tight losses that they've historically fallen short to.
Let's look at what could be the starting side for Worcester next season (as it stands):
8. du Preez
11. van der Merwe
That to me, is a comfortable top six/top seven side that is only going to improve season on season. The blend of youth and experience across the pitch is something we haven't seen from a Worcester side before. However, the x-factor in that side is in the backline. If they can keep that group of players together, that's potentially one of the most efficient, balanced and cohesive backlines in the Premiership. The finishing ability across the three quarters is genuinely up there with Bristol and Wasps; I'm saying that as a Wasps fan! If Kvesic, Hill and du Preez can cause enough issues around the breakdown (that's an incredibly disruptive back row by the way), then Worcester can become an ugly team to beat.