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Worcester Warriors: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

After an encouraging campaign last year, Worcester return to Premiership action intent on securing their top-flight status for a sixth successive season.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: 10th (W9 L13 - Pts 46)

This season's target: Comfortable survival

Last season's top try scorer: Josh Adams (7)

Odds to win the Premiership: 250/1*

First five fixtures: Leicester (H) Northampton (A), Exeter (H), Harlequins (A), Sale (H)

Transfers in: Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers), Conor Carey (Connacht), Jono Kitto (Northland), Melani Nanai (Blues), Ed Fidow (Provence), Caleb Montgomery (Ulster), Matt Moulds (Blues), Richard Palframan (London Scottish), Oli Morris (Saracens)

Transfers out: Pierce Phillips (Agen), Gareth Milasinovich (Ulster), Bryce Heem (Toulon), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues), Simon Kerrod (Harlequins), Darren Barry (Newcastle Falcons), Wynand Olivier (retired), Dewald Potgieter (retired), Jonny Arr (Birmingham Moseley), Jack Cosgrove (Dragons), Alafoti Fa'osiliva (released), Carl Kirwan (Chinnor), Nick Rigby (Birmingham & Solihull), Ben Te'o (Toulon), Mason Tonks (Birmingham Moseley), Zac Xiourouppa (Birmingham Moseley), Jack Singleton (Saracens), Luke Baldwin (Dragons)

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Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Worcester season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bath | Bristol Bears | Gloucester | Harlequins | Leicester Tigers | London Irish | Northampton Saints | Saracens | Sale Sharks | Wasps

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The story of last season

Worcester rallied after a disappointing start to the season to ensure their Premiership safety with games to spare.

Alan Solomons’ side finished in tenth-place after winning nine and losing 13 of their 22 league matches, an improvement on the previous season’s eleventh-place.

They also reached the semi-finals of the Premiership Rugby Cup and the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup in an encouraging campaign for the West Midlands side.

Worcester stumbled out of the blocks last season, narrowly losing their opening three matches against Wasps, Sale and Newcastle.

They bounced back to earn their first win of the season against Leicester at Welford Road in September.

The visitors let slip a 37-11 lead, then sensationally scored in the last minute win in Leicester for the second year running.

In a frantic finish, debutant Ted Hill scored in the corner and Duncan Weir kicked the conversion to seal a remarkable victory.

Solomons described the win as “absolutely unbelievable” and “an incredible performance”.

They claimed their second win of the season in Round 6 producing a devastating display to thrash Bristol Bears 52-7.

The seven-try victory, which lifted them to seventh in the table, was Worcester’s biggest Premiership win.

They were flirting with relegation for large swathes of the season but their top flight status was secure after a 27-20 victory over Gloucester in April.

Tries from Weir, Niall Annett and Darren Barry preceded an unbelievable defensive effort from the hosts. The full-time, which assured survival, sparked scenes of jubilation at Sixways.

On the last day, Worcester upset eventual champions Saracens 31-29 to secure a tenth-place finish.

They also reached the last-four of the Premiership Rugby Cup but were beaten handily by Saracens.

Hopes for this season

Worcester’s principal aim will be to secure Premiership survival. They will have to cope without several of last season’s star players including top try scorer Josh Adams, Bryce Heem, Pierce Phillips and Jack Singleton.

England international Ben Te’o has also been released after an uninspiring spell at Sixways.

Head coach Solomons insists his side lack the experience to compete on several fronts this season after the raft of departures.

“We are not ready to compete in all competitions,” he said.

“We can be a top-six side but we need to focus solely on the Premiership.

“Everything is geared towards those 22 Premiership games."

However, Warriors have not finished outside the bottom three since 2006 when they came eighth and they’ll be prioritising premiership survival.

Rugby World Cup absentees

Ed Fidow (Samoa) and Joe Taufete’e (USA).

Key man: Francois Hougaard

South African scrum-half Francois Hougaard was instrumental in guiding Worcester to safety last season.

The 31-year-old who can be deployed on the wing is known for his searing pace and inventiveness around the fringes of defences.

The Sixways fan favourite won the Premiership Player of the Month in April during a month which featured outstanding defensive displays against Wasps, Sale Sharks and Gloucester in pivotal games in the club's fight for survival.

He first burst onto the international scene for the Springboks in 2009 before featuring at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and went on to make 46 appearances for his country before announcing his retirement in April 2018.

One to watch: Ted Hill

20-year-old back row Ted Hill has established himself as a first-team regular and has continued to impress with a string of stand-out performances.

He scored two tries in the memorable win over Leicester before going on to make 25 more appearances.

Hill also won his first England cap when he came off the bench against Japan at Twickenham in November.

Speaking ahead of their Premiership opener, Hill said: “This is a new season, so there will be new challenges ahead and I will be pushing as hard as I can to hopefully be given a chance this year.

“In this environment you don’t want to become satisfied with just a basic standard, you want to keep pushing yourself to make yourself uncomfortable.

“I do feel more comfortable around the guys but I am trying to push myself to be a bit more uncomfortable to make myself get better.”

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

03/11/2019 -  Worcester Warriors v Exeter Chiefs (2.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD)

20/12/2019 - Gloucester v Worcester Warriors (7.45pm kick off)

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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