DIRECTOR of rugby Dean Ryan has urged his players not to be daunted by the challenge of facing Aviva Premiership giants Northampton Saints on the opening day of the season.
Warriors will be making their first appearance in the top flight since May 2014 on Friday night and Ryan has handed five summer signings their debuts.
Donncha O’Callaghan, Phil Dowson, Wynand Olivier, Tom Heathcote and Darren Barry are all set to make their Sixways bows for the much-anticipated encounter.
Marco Mama and Na’ama Leleimalefaga could also make their first showings for the club as they have got a place on the bench alongside academy prospect Perry Humphreys.
Ryan admitted it would a big test for his players, but he said it was important they grasped the opportunity with both hands.
“We have been genuinely excited across the summer,” he said.
“We want to get out there and know where we are because trying to close the gap between the Championship and Premiership is difficult because you don’t quite know the size of it.
“But we have got to play and we have got to be realistic about the things that we have got to learn and there’s no better starting place than bringing one of the best in England here, so we can get a benchmark of what we need to do.
“We have worked so hard during the Championship, so let’s not get nervous or daunted by the challenge and the names that are coming here.
“We are well aware of reputation, names and everything else, but this is exactly where we wanted to be.”
A new-look second-row sees Ireland legend O’Callaghan link-up with former Cornish Pirate Barry while Dowson is set to take on his former club in the back-row alongside skipper GJ van Velze and Sam Lewis. Scotland international Heathcote will start at fly-half with Ryan Mills at 12 and South African Olivier at outside-centre.
Chris Pennell, Cooper Vuna and Tom Biggs occupy the back three slots with the current squad’s record appearance-maker Jonny Arr at scrum-half.
Val Rapava Ruskin, Niall Annett and Nick Schonert make up the front-row as Warriors battle last season’s table-toppers.
Warriors’ side to face Northampton Saints: Pennell, Vuna, Olivier, Mills, Biggs, Heathcote, Arr, Rapava Ruskin, Annett, Schonert, O’Callaghan, Barry, Dowson, Lewis, Van Velze (c)
Replacements: George, Leleimalefaga, Rees, O’Shea, Mama, Mulchrone, Grove, Humphreys