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Pennell ready for Sale showdown

Captain Chris Pennell believes Worcester are facing an unpredictable season opener against Sale at Sixways on Saturday as they return to the Aviva Premiership.

The Warriors were relegated from the top flight at the end of the 2009-10 season, with a defeat to fellow strugglers Leeds Carnegie at Headingley sealing their fate. But the west country club have rebuilt under former Bristol boss Richard Hill and secured promotion at the first attempt, beating Cornish Pirates in the play-off final.

"Sale are a very difficult side to prepare for because of all the changes they have made over the course of the summer," said Pennell. "It is hard to know what to expect, but with Steve Diamond back at the helm they will be a tight-knit group who will work very hard for each other. But at the end of the day all we can do is focus on our own performance and our own gameplan - if we do that then the result will take care of itself."

As the newly-promoted side in the division, Worcester have a tough act to follow.

Exeter were widely-tipped for relegation this time last year as they prepared for their maiden Premiership campaign.

But the Chiefs confounded expectations by finishing eighth, well clear of the drop zone, and at one point were challenging for Heineken Cup qualification.

"We don't want to spend the season looking beneath us, worrying about relegation," said Pennell.

"Exeter showed last season that promoted sides can make an impact and they raised the bar for clubs coming up from the Championship and showed they can compete in the top flight."

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