FORMER Scotland assistant coach Dean Ryan does not want sympathy. In fact, he almost reels at the thought of anyone feeling sorry for his current team Worcester.
Some time during the next month – maybe on Easter weekend – Worcester should be confirmed as the club that will permanently prop up this season’s Aviva Premiership.
Barring a remarkable turnaround in results – the Warriors have not won a Premiership game since 1 March last year – or the eventual Championship winners not meeting top-flight entry criteria, Worcester will be relegated.
Twelve points adrift of 11th-placed Newcastle with just five games left, Ryan’s men head to Tyneside on Sunday knowing that defeat against the Falcons would leave them knocking on the Championship door.
After Newcastle, Worcester’s remaining four games are against Exeter, Bath, Saracens and Gloucester, raising a real possibility that they could become the first club since Rotherham 10 years ago to go through an entire 22-match Premiership campaign without a win.
The Warriors have collected six losing bonus points, with three of their last five defeats being agonising experiences – 23-22 against Leicester, 21-20 at Harlequins and latterly 13-11 on home soil against Wasps, when they were beaten by a converted injury-time try. “Don’t make any impression of what is going on here. I know the world is going around feeling sorry for us, tapping us on the back and saying things must be dark, but this group is pretty good,” said Worcester rugby director Ryan, who worked under Scott Johnson during Scotland’s 2013 Six Nations campaign.
“There are people I have worked with in the last six or seven months that I have got the utmost respect for. The maths still say yes, so we are going to still give it a good crack. We will go up there [to Newcastle] to make sure we do the right thing, represent this group the right way, and see.
“I am only interested in what is going on here. I am pretty proud of the group, I always have been.
“The world wants to write of people moving on and how dark it must be, but we are pretty tight together. Yes, there are some things moving around the edges, but the group that go out there really get what it means.
“Whether we get the reward for it this season, I don’t know, but it will define the future, it will define this group, and that’s exactly what I want it to do.
“We’ve got to go and fight like mad against a group that are fighting like mad. When you work that hard, it is quite nice to get a reward at the end of it.”
Ryan is well aware of the on-pitch areas for improvement, although the Wasps loss proved particularly painful after Worcester failed to close out a game they seemingly had in the bag.
“We can’t hide,” he added. “It was painful, but sport doesn’t necessarily give you everything you think you deserve – that’s the nature of it.
“Sometimes you have got to get behind closed doors and put an arm around each other.
“We can’t put distance between ourselves and sides, and therefore we are always vulnerable to something happening. We get opportunities to control games and we make mistakes. That’s just where we are.
“We are not a clinical side, we are not a side that is able to get 95 per cent accuracy in the things that we do. We have got a bit of greyness around the edges and we do make mistakes, but what we have got better at is dealing with picking each other up and moving on.”