Scots at Worcester Warriors face uncertain future but need to be playing ahead of autumn Tests
That is when the company that holds their contracts – WRFC Players Limited – is likely to go into liquidation due to HMRC’s winding-up order.
For some – the ones in demand – it will be the green light to try to continue their careers elsewhere, to find a club capable of paying their wages.
Not everyone will get fixed up. Many face a tough winter hunting for new employers in a shrinking marketplace where cold economic reality is starting to bite.
For Worcester’s three Scotland internationals, it is a period of uncertainty.
Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe’s credentials as Lions Test players has seen them linked with top clubs in England, Scotland and France.
The third, Murray McCallum, may not have a CV to match his two compatriots but the prop’s versatility and experience with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Worcester makes him an attractive option.
The trio, along with the rest of the Worcester squad, have effectively been in limbo since last Monday when the Rugby Football Union suspended the club from all competitions after they were placed into administration. They need to get fixed up, to return to playing.
The autumn internationals begin three weeks on Saturday and Gregor Townsend will be keen to see them find a club as soon as possible.
Wednesday’s machinations should hasten that process and the first departures from the club will happen this week, with four players due to move to Bath on loan.
England internationals Ted Hill and Ollie Lawrence are expected to lead the exodus and they will be joined by Russian international prop Valery Morozov and Australian forward Fergus Lee-Warner.
Steve Diamond, Worcester’s director of rugby, has given the quartet his blessing and hopes they can one day return to Sixways.
There was some poignancy in Diamond’s tweet as he wished them well. “They need to play,” he wrote. “I will deal with the mess. Hopefully the boys will come home.”
Sutherland has also been linked with Bath, who are desperate to kick-start their season after losing their opening four games. But a return to Scotland may hold more appeal.
The Lions prop moved to Worcester from Edinburgh in summer 2021 but the capital club are well stocked with looseheads and a switch to Glasgow Warriors might make more sense.
Franco Smith certainly made positive noises at the start of the season about bringing the Scots home. “They are players of national interest and to have them here would be good,” Smith said.
Van der Merwe lit up the Pro14 in four seasons with Edinburgh, averaging a try every other game, and has an even better record at Test level for Scotland, with 12 tries in 19 appearances.
It is no surprise that the winger has had the top French clubs circling, with both Racing 92 and Toulon credited with an interest. Van der Merwe has played in the Top 14 before but endured a tough time at Montpellier where he failed to settle and was hampered by a hip injury.
A return to Edinburgh and the club where he flourished might tempt him, although salary could be an issue. Just how much cash is left in the SRU coffers?
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