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Competition key for Ryan


Worcester rugby director Dean Ryan, whose team face a tough Aviva Premiership challenge against Northampton on Saturday

Worcester rugby director Dean Ryan, whose team face a tough Aviva Premiership challenge against Northampton on Saturday

Worcester rugby director Dean Ryan, whose team face a tough Aviva Premiership challenge against Northampton on Saturday

Dean Ryan says Worcester are "desperate to fight the challenge of relegation" as they prepare for another significant Aviva Premiership challenge on Saturday.

A week after going agonisingly close to drawing against Leicester, the Warriors now face Tigers' fellow Premiership heavyweights Northampton.

Worcester head to Franklin's Gardens to face a team that replaced long-time league leaders Saracens at the Premiership summit last weekend, with Ryan's men 10 points adrift of 11th-placed Newcastle with nine games left.

"The short-term aim for us is to get this group at its best and see if we can compete, because we are desperate to fight the challenge of relegation," he said.

"We did a pretty good job against Northampton for 65 minutes when they came to Sixways earlier this season.

"Since then, we've proved that as a group we are able to last longer, and hopefully we can make things difficult.

"A lot of people did themselves a lot of credit against Leicester last week, so they deserve to roll again.

"Saints have huge resources. They've got academy players that step up to Premiership level when players are away on international duty."

While Worcester are up against it to collect anything in terms of points from their east midlands mission, the same could be said for Newcastle, who visit title play-off hopefuls Harlequins on Saturday.

The game sees Falcons centre Gonzalo Tiesi return to face his former club, and Newcastle head coach Peter Russell has been impressed with Tiesi's impact since moving to Tyneside.

"Gonzalo coming in, it just adds a bit of spark to the side," Russell said.

"The international players certainly do bring something back from their journeys and experiences. Just to have him in the midfield there, his communication helps, and his experience on defence.

"The way he organises people around him is one of his biggest strengths."

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Third-placed Bath head down the M5 to face Exeter on Saturday, and despite the Chiefs currently finding themselves seven points adrift of the play-off pace, head coach Rob Baxter remains upbeat about the challenges ahead.

"Historically, and looking at previous years where we have finished fifth and sixth, right now we are just two points behind where we were at this stage in those two seasons," Baxter said.

"Interestingly, if we beat Bath this weekend, we would then be two points ahead of where we have been after 14 (Premiership) rounds in the last two seasons.

"Right now, it's all pretty close, but I think it just feels even more like we are getting very close to doing something.

"As you get very close to getting results, a good run of games or good reward for your Premiership games, it gets more frustrating when you slip away and start to lose by one point, one score or a last minute drop-goal.

"That is where we are right now, but we have to fight that frustration positively, and you do that by training hard and being open and honest enough to address the things you need to move on with.

"Our view is that if the same level of improvement happens over the next 12 months, you will start to see a lot of those narrow losses turned into wins, which is the most important thing.

"Basically, that is what every team sport is about. You work on all the bits and pieces and individual skills, and the ones that come through are the ones who stick it all together for the longest in whatever situation comes along."

Elsewhere on Saturday, Wasps host a London Irish side buoyed by a superb victory over Saracens at Allianz Park last weekend, while Sunday's Premiership action sees Leicester taking on Gloucester.

Former England centre Mike Tindall captains the west country club, but Leicester will be firm favourites, especially with scrum-half Ben Youngs, hooker Tom Youngs and lock Ed Slater all returning to domestic action from Six Nations duty.

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