DIRECTOR of rugby Dean Ryan is confident pushing promising prop Nick Schonert to be a top -flight scrummager will turn out to be a risk worth taking.
Before this season, Schonert had never competed in the Aviva Premiership and at 24 he finds himself in a select group of young tightheads competing at the highest level.
Only 23-year-old Thomas Francis, of Exeter, was younger in the starting line-ups for last weekend’s fixtures as Gloucester, Wasps, Saracens, Sale Sharks and London Irish all handed the number three jersey to players over the age of 30.
But while Schonert does not have the experience and expertise of internationals Petrus Du Plessis and Lorenzo Cittadini, Ryan believes the South African has the enthusiasm and energy to develop his game to new levels.
“Look at the growth you can get off the back of somebody like Nick Schonert at 23 or 24 year olds playing in the Premiership,” Ryan said.
“If he is a success in that Premiership season, you are looking at having a bloke for the next eight of nine years.
“Yes, it has got risk attached to it, but the alternative does not take us anywhere and trust me if we could find the equivalent of a Donncha (O’Callaghan) that can play tighthead irrespective of age and be the right person for this rugby club we would do it.”
“Tighthead is a slow maturing position, but I rate Nick. There are not many 23 or 24 years who are cutting their teeth in the Premiership and if they are they are doing it in a much more secure environment than what we are, so I think he has done a tremendous job to where expectations should be.”
Warriors’ front row, which also featured 24-year-old Niall Annett, struggled against a power-packed Gloucester side, but Ryan said it was important not to ‘panic’ if teams get the better of them.
“It is a huge step up,” Ryan added. “We have got six guys in a pack which had never played in the Premiership before and four of them had never played at that level before.
“So let’s not pretend we are not going to have everything our way every week. But we have shown that we can be competitive.
“To blood a front row this young is a positive position for this club to be in because we have spent a long time getting people here.
“We have been looking, but the best tightheads have the choice of the best clubs of the world, so people need to understand that they are not knocking our door down.
“When we understand that we can get behind the youngsters that we have turned to and we can support them through times when they are going really well and when they have a rough day.”