WARRIORS centre Wynand Olivier believes the Anglo-Welsh Cup will provide a platform for the next crop of academy youngsters to break into the first-team set-up.
Worcester kick off their Anglo-Welsh campaign on Friday night when they host Sale Sharks under the Sixways floodlights (7.45pm), and the South Africa international is excited to see how the younger players cope in a competition he insists will bring a ‘similar pressure’ to that of the Aviva Premiership.
Backs coach Sam Vesty will oversee Warriors’ campaign in the tournament and is expected to select a squad full of youth to assess who is ready to step up to the ‘next level’.
“There’s a lot of great youngsters with a lot of talent at the club.” said Oliver. “They obviously don’t always get the opportunities they want in the Premiership Rugby A League games, as some of the matches get postponed or cancelled.
“I think playing in a competition like the Anglo-Welsh Cup brings a little bit of pressure that is similar to the Premiership for youngsters 18 or 19-years-old. Playing against top sides in the Anglo-Welsh gives them the opportunity to show their ability. It’s a chance for them to get the ball in their hands or make that massive tackle, and to have a bit of fun with their mates.
“Everyone’s hungry to play. There’s a good balance between youth and experience and the youngsters are obviously pressing for spots in the first team.
“But it’s the same with the guys in the first team. They want to improve and keep their places. Someone like myself is a little bit older, but I’m so competitive, I’m not just going to give my place away.
“I want to see the younger players succeed but I want to succeed also. That’s the healthy competition we have right through the club.”
One of the players Olivier is excited to see in action is 19-year-old centre Will Butler, who has been on the fringes of the first team since making his Warriors debut in last season’s European Challenge Cup.
“Will Butler is an unbelievable talent, having played for England under-20s last season,” said Oliver. “He’s shown what he can do, so it’ll be nice to see him get an opportunity. The Anglo-Welsh is a great way to make the step up to the next level.”