Club History

Club History

1871-1920:

In 1871, the team, which owes its foundations to the cleric, Rev Francis John Eld, made their first outing on November 8 against the Worcester Artiliary at Somerset Place. In 1893 the club moved to Pitchcroft and a field adjoining Worcestershire County Cricket Club at New Road. Unfortunately in 1896 the club was disbanded.

In 1908 the club was revived playing matches at Pitchcroft and Northwick. Two years later, the start of annual meetings, which still occur today, cemented the team. However, in 1913 only one game was played against Gloucester Franciscans before the onset of the First World War.

1920-1929:

The club was reborn following the end of the First World War with their first match away at Bromsgrove. A number of new recruits from Malvern, Droitwich, Pershore and Bromyard led the committee to create an 'A' and 'B' team.

The club continued to grow during the 1920s playing in the traditional colours of narrow band yellow on blue.

During the 1920s the club was lucky to have several players with first-class experience: H K Evans (Cardiff & Bristol); F Youd (Cheshire Cap); C F Walters (Neath); F Williams (Glamorgan Wanderers), J N Poynder (Devon & Lancs); M Averill (Bristol); The Rec JTB Evans (Royal Navy); WJ Hughson (Pontypool); AP Atkins (RAF & Ireland).

1930-1939:

This period saw a very strong team and community spirit develop and during the 1931/32 season the club played 30 games, winning 27 of them.

The thirties saw the team having problems with their grounds and having to move from various playing sites which resulted in the team negotiating and paying a deposit on its own ground opposite the Ketch Inn in Kempsey. The Second World War then broke out which cost the club their deposit.

1940-1949:

The war made regular matches difficult and it was decided to close the club down. However, following meetings in 1945 the club restarted. Following the disappointment of securing land in Kempsey, the club secured land at Claines and the first game was played there in November.

The following year, bad weather prevented a full season and saw the club move to a new home by the canal at Perdiswell and the changing rooms returned to the Saracens Head. That season also saw the formation of the Ground Purchase and Development Fund.

At the end of the 1940s the location of the club changed again with the headquarters moving to the Old Talbot Hotel in Sidbury and the home ground to Bilford Road.

1950-1959:

Worcester Rugby Football Club was now settled at home on Bilford Road and with a series of successful seasons the decision was made to try and improve the facilities which resulted in a shed being purchased to serve as a players' cloakroom and shelter.

The club embarked on its first Easter Tour in 1953 playing in Weston-super-Mare.

January 15, 1954 went down as an important day in the club's history as it was the first time in the club's minutes that a new ground at Bevere was mentioned as a possible purchase. The move happened quickly and the official opening of the new home took place on September 5, 1956.

In 1955 it was decided that the club should have a chairman and G.H Day was first to be elected.

1960-1969:

The club entered the 60s having made great strides in regard to the playing strengths and facilities of the clubhouse at Bevere. The growth saw five senior teams and two colts teams. However, a decline hit the club and by 1968 the colts teams had disappeared altogether.

In 1965 it was reported by David Payner, joint Hon. Treasurer with Bill Richardson that the club was in a 'very unstable position' financially. Membership was however growing and a fifth side was created.

The playing strength saw the club have two peaks in 1966/67 with the 1st XV having the best season in the club's history to date with 27 victories under the leadership of Peter Baxter

1970-1979:

The club entered the 1970s in a strong position after the growth at the club but the issue of a home continued to dominate debate at the club. The club continued to play at Bevere for the early part of the seventies before a move was secured to Sixways.

The official opening of the new site took place on September 4, 1975 with the ribbon cut by world famous Irish international CMH Gibson MBE. A few months later the floodlights were used on September 24 as a Presidents XV took on a Public Schools XV.

The club celebrated its centenary in 1971 and made the Cup Final in the 1976/1977 season, sadly losing 13-10 to Dudley in the North Midlands Final. In 1977/78 the club were named North Midlands Sevens winners.
Worcester ended the seventies in good health with the first team even going on tour to France.

1980-1989:

Worcester Rugby Club entered the 1980's eager to build on the growing stature of the club from the previous decade - and enjoyed great success on both sides of the pond!

In the 1980/81 season the 1st XV played 45 games and secured 19 wins but conceded 638 points - the most points ever recorded against the club team. Worcester tasted silverware as it won the Worcester Sevens in September, which was hosted at Sixways.

The club embarked on a tour to Canada and USA in May 1980 and before the tour, received a letter from Downing Street penned by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It still hangs from the wall proudly at the entrance to the Clubhouse today.

Worcester again bolstered international relations with the USA before the end of the decade when they entertained Fort Worth Rugby Football Clun in 1986. The following season Worcester again made the trip to America and this time included a trip to Worcester in Massachusetts. The two teams, with the same name met on September 26, 1987.

1990-1999:

Worcester Rugby Club enjoyed unprecedented success in the nineties as the club rocketed up through the leagues.
In 1992 the club had plans to develop and construct a training shed to provide facilities for young rugby players in the youth and mini category. David Hallmark, the then Chairman, in consultation with the North Midlands RFU, made an application for a much more sophisticated facility which was made by the Sports Council in 1995.

Most crucially, the decade saw the arrival of Cecil Duckworth who has driven the club forward ever since. It was Mr Duckworth who supported the Lottery bid that saw a grant of £1.3million awarded to the club. With his guidance the club enjoyed huge success and Worcester changed beyond all recognition in the space of a few years.

National Division Five and Four were conquered and in 1997 the club again won promotion to Jewson One. Promotion to Allied Dunbar Premier Division Two followed in the 1999-2000 season - when the division was to be re-named First Division Rugby.

When the game went professional in 1996, Cecil Duckworth decided that if Worcester were going to be successful they also had to be professional and go full time. Les Cusworth arrived to lead the club, however, an administration mistake proved the defining moment as Worcester lost promotion to the very highest level at the first attempt as points were deducted for fielding Tom Robinson, who was not properly registered with the team.

2000-2009:

Worcester started the decade in National Division One and were denied a place in the elite until the 2003/2004 season, when, under the guidance of John Brain, the club finally made it.

Worcester Warriors were promoted to the Zurich - now Aviva - Premiership after winning the title with a perfect record of 26 wins from 26 games in the 2003/04 season - something that had never before been achieved. The club defied the odds to stay in the top-flight in their first season after a memorable campaign.

In the 2005/06 season the club avoided relegation again and safety was secured long before the final day drama. The season culminated in an eighth-place finish in the league, one place higher than the previous campaign. In Europe Warriors made the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup but lost out to local rivals Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Despite some last-day drama in the 2006/07 season, Worcester Warriors stayed up at the expense of Northampton and kept their status in the top flight for a further three years before being relegated at the close of the 2009/10 season.

However, the club did experience some fine European campaigns during this period.

In 2008, a fine run saw them edged 24-17 by Bath in the European Challenge Cup Final at Kingsholm and the following season Bourgoin denied Worcester a second consecutive European Final.

2010-2013

Warriors suffered relegation under Mike Ruddock in 2009/10 but bounced straight back to the Premiership at the first time of asking following a superb season in the Championship with new boss Richard Hill at the helm.

Hill's men topped the league, winning 21 of their 22 matches before winning all six of their pool matches to ensure a home semi-final in the play-offs.

Warriors held their nerve to edge Bedford Blues 23-22 in the semis before defeating Cornish Pirates in both legs of the final to ensure they would be back in the promised land of the top-flight.

The 2011/12 season saw Warriors consolidate a place in the Premiership beating the likes of Northampton Saints, Saracens and Bath Rugby to secure a tenth-place finish.

In 2012/13, Hill's men started the season brightly with victories over London Irish, Sale Sharks and Saracens but the second-half of the campaign witnessed just one win in the final 11 games. That left Warriors just one place above the relegation zone and the departure of Hill was confirmed with two matches remaining.

2013-2016 The Dean Ryan era

A summer of change followed in 2013 with the appointment of Dean Ryan as Director of Rugby, who completely changed the focus of the Club to ensure he could bring long-term success to Sixways.

Ryan couldn't prevent relegation during his first season in charge but started to target signings who he could develop into top-end players.

Ryan focused his attentions on attracting young talent who were trapped at other clubs and Warriors announced the signings of players such as Sam Smith, Ryan Mills and Nick Schonert ahead of the 2014/15 season.

Ryan also added the experience of players such as Welsh international Jonathan Thomas, explosive winger Tom Biggs and Aviva Premiership winner GJ van Velze, who was handed the captain's armband ahead of his first season at the Club.

Ryan, together with High Performance Director Nick Johnston also built behind the scenes, with the recruitment of the necessary backroom staff to offer players essential off-the-field medical, nutrition and strength and conditioning support.

The Club also launched six Junior Academy centres across the West Midlands and the wider region to ensure the future of the Club was a positive one where young players could be developed into first-team stars further down the line.

Warriors went on to enjoy a remarkable 2014/15 campaign as they won the British & Irish Cup after winning all nine of their games, while second-string side Worcester Cavaliers reached the Aviva A League final for the first time in their history.

And at the first time of asking, Ryan led Warriors back to the Aviva Premiership after two nail-biting ties against Bristol Rugby in the Greene King IPA Championship Final. Two tries in the final five minutes of the second leg, and a last kick of the game from Ryan Lamb saw Warriors win 59-58 on aggregate to return to the top-flight.

Warriors' first season back in the Aviva Premiership during the 2015/16 campaign was a successful one following the redevelopment of the Indoor Training Centre, which became a state-of-the-art High Performance Centre to give Warriors some of the best training facilities in the country.

On the pitch Warriors secured a tenth-placed finish and started to make real progress with seven victories.

It was a season of firsts at Sixways as Warriors recorded a Club-record four consecutive Premiership victories before South Africa international Francois Hougaard became the Club's first-ever player to win the Aviva Premiership Player of the Month award for his performances throughout March.

Hougaard soon put pen to paper on a permanent deal with Warriors, while Dean Ryan also signed the likes of Ben Te'o and Jackson Willison ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.

And there was also one other major development off the pitch as Warriors announced the major news that the Sixways pitch would become an Artificial Grass Pitch ahead of the 2016/17 season.

There was success within the Academy as 17 players received England age-group honours. Huw Taylor, Andrew Kitchener, Jack Singleton, Sam Ripper-Smith and Jamie Shillcock were all included in the England Under 20s RBS 6 Nations squad, before Taylor, Singleton and Kitchener were instrumental in helping England win the World Rugby Under 20 Championship during the summer of 2016.

Dean Ryan departed the Club in June 2016.

2016 - The journey continues

Following Dean Ryan's departure Warriors announced that Head Coach Carl Hogg and High Performance Director Nick Johnston would be responsible for Warriors' continued progression on the pitch.

Hogg would now take control of all first-team affairs, while Johnston would oversee the backroom set-up. Both had been essential components of Ryan's regime and were in a prime positon to ensure Warriors' long-term vision to become a successful European Champions Cup side could eventually come to fruition.

If you would like to contribute any memories or photographs to the Warriors History Section, please contact Tom Parsons at tom.parsons@warriors.co.uk.

Record of Achievement 1977-2015

1977-78 North Midlands Cup and North Midlands Sevens Winner
1989-90 North Midlands Division One Champions
1990-91 North Midlands Cup Finalists
1992-93 Midlands Division Two Champions
1993-94 North Midlands Cup Finalists
1994-95 Whitbread Flowers & Rugby World Junior Club of the Year
1995-96 North Midlands Cup Winners
1995-96 National Division five North Champions
1996-97 National Division four North Champions
1996-97 North Midlands Cup Finalists
1997-98 Jewsons National League One Champions
1997-98 North Midlands Cup Winners
1997-98 Powerline Floodlit Cup Winners
1999-00 Allied Dunbar Premiership Division Two
2003-04 National Division One Champions
2004-05 European Shield Finalists
2007-08 Middlesex Sevens Finalists
2007-08 European Challenge Cup Finalists
2010-11 Championship Winners
2014-15 British & Irish Cup Winners
2014-15 Greene King IPA Championship Winners

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