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Cup campaign gives Worcester a lift

Worcester boss Dean Ryan believes this season's LV= Cup challenge has lifted the Warriors as they prepare for a resumption of their Aviva Premiership campaign.

Ryan's men gained their first victory of the season when they defeated Cardiff Blues a fortnight ago, which came after seven successive Premiership defeats and a winless start to their Amlin Challenge Cup pool.

"The LV= Cup has been a real shot in the arm for us," Worcester rugby director Ryan said.

"I've been pleased with the attitude, enthusiasm and energy of our youngsters, and it has created a nice vibe around the team.

"Professional rugby is about a conveyor belt where youngsters are pushing the senior guys.

"In the past we've had the nature of being quite senior and keeping places static, and one of the key challenges is to try and change that.

"Now we have to see whether these senior guys can respond. If they don't step up to the challenge, they know there are some very talented youngsters behind them."

Worcester are currently nine points adrift at the Premiership basement with almost a third of the league campaign gone but Sale Sharks, their opponents on Friday night, will climb into the top six if they win.

"We've played Sale once this season (in the Amlin Challenge Cup) and they beat us convincingly," Ryan added.

"It is a big test for us to see if we have we closed that gap."

Ryan hands a Premiership debut to wing James Stephenson following some impressive LV= Cup displays, while prop Rob O'Donnell features alongside front-row partners Chris Brooker and Ofa Fainga'anuku, and lock James Percival makes a first league start of the season.

Sale, meanwhile, are pretty much at full strength with the likes of Mark Cueto, Danny Cipriani, Dwayne Peel and Dan Braid all lining up for the Warriors' visit to AJ Bell Stadium.

Four Premiership games take place on Saturday, with Exeter hosting Saracens, Harlequins entertaining Gloucester, London Irish travelling to Leicester and Newcastle visiting Northampton, with Wasps and Bath meeting at Adams Park on Sunday.

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