The Worcester Warriors Rugby Club was founded in 1871 and played its first match against the Royal Artillery Rugby Club. The club faced challenges and was disbanded for a period of time before being revived in 1920. In 1975, the club moved to its current stadium, Sixways, and started to see improvement in its game, winning several titles and promotions in the 1990s. The club was revitalized in 1997 when businessman and Worcester resident, Cecil Duckworth, invested his time and funds into the team. The club was eventually promoted to the Premiership in 2004 and has been holding its place among England’s top teams since. In recent years, the club has made history with the first twins ever to play on the same side in a Premiership match and has consistently finished in the top half of the league. We here at Talk Rugby Union will go over the background of this club to help you get better acquainted with it.
The foundation of Worcester Warriors Rugby Club was officially announced in 1871, by the Reverend John Francis Ede. The first match they played was against the Royal Artillery Rugby Club on November 8th, 1871, and their first recorded victory against Gloucester College that same season. The club was disbanded from 1896 but revived in 1908, when play resumed on a more formal basis, until the First World War.
After the war, survivors met to reform the club in 1920, and it rapidly grew, as young men from miles around, wanted to sign up to play in the now-famous team. The Warriors formed an A-Team and a B-Team as a consequence of their growth in numbers.
When the Rugby Football League was officially formed out of the old Northern Rugby Football Union in 1922, Warwick entered the league in North Midlands Division One.
The club’s early matches were played at a variety of locations, predominantly on Pitchcroft racecourse, from 1894. It would be half a century before they would settle down in the ground at Bevere in Worcester in 1954.
Over the next few years, the Warriors had to watch their contemporaries go from strength to strength while they sunk to the Second Division. However, in 1975 the club moved into an impressive new stadium, Sixways, and things started to look up. They won the North Midlands Cup and the North Midlands Sevens in 1978, and steadily improved their game during the 1980s until finally reaching the top of Division One at the end of the decade.
In the 1990s, the Warriors fared better than ever before, but it was a great struggle for the players who were finding it hard to hold on to a place in the higher divisions. Despite making it to the finals in the North Midlands Cup in 1991, 1994, 1996 and 1997, they failed to take the trophy, which was demoralizing as it recurred again and again. However, they made it to be Champions of the Midlands leagues - first Division 2 in 1993 and then Division One in 1995, but even the team’s captain admitted that the club did not seem to be going anywhere – as soon as they were promoted, they were relegated again, and a series of almost-wins did little to improve the situation. The club needed a new lease of life, and that was exactly what it got.
Cecil Duckworth moved to Worcester in the 1950s after fighting with the RAF in World War 2. He became a president of the Bosch heating corporation, a self-made millionaire, and on retirement in 1997 decided to plough his considerable energies – and funds – into his greatest passion which was, of course, the Worcester Warriors. From 1997 on then, the club’s squad was rebuilt, and the team was subsequently promoted. The next year the Warriors were League One Champions, North Midlands Cup winners and Powerline Floodlit Cup Winners. However, this impressive sweep was not to be the hoped-for renaissance, as relegation was just around the corner in 1999. However, they were immediately promoted back as Division Two Champions. Warriors were promoted from Division Two in 2000, the first promotion that would take them to the top. They finally reached the Premiership in 2004, after finishing the season top of Division One. They had pulled off a massive coup by winning 25 out of their 26 games that season – a greater tally than any other team has managed to achieve either before or since.
On arriving in the Premiership for the 2004-5 season, Worcester looked likely to flounder and indeed it was a hard year for them. Nonetheless, they managed to pull off a few impressive matches, including a victory against reigning champions, the London Wasps. However, it was their end of season showdown against the Northampton Saints that was their match of the season – a tense, aggressive match that was broadcast live, and finished with a narrow but definite 21-19 victory for the Warriors.
That season, the Warriors also managed to make it to the final of the now-defunct European Shield, where they lost the trophy to the French team Auch, at Oxford’s newly-built Kassam Stadium. They also got through to the play-offs for the Heineken Cup that year, but lost to the Saracens. However, their real achievement that season was what they had been concentrating on: holding on to their place in the Premiership. The Warriors finished the season comfortably at ninth in the league.
The 2005-6 season saw mixed performances. The Warriors reached the Semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup after winning five matches in a round of six and finishing top of their pool. Another showdown match against Northampton Saints saw the Warriors on excellent form, but Gloucester eventually put them out of the tournament. However, the club fared better in the Premiership, guaranteeing immunity from relegation early on in the season, again winning a string of victories to prove they deserved their place amongst England’s best teams, including a 37-8 victory against the Wasps. Gloucester rugby club – along with Bath and Bristol, Worcester’s local rivals – is now the only team in the Premiership that Worcester have failed to defeat, and the 2005-6 season saw them finally achieve at least a draw against these. The Warriors made another first that season, when twins Lee and Chris Fortey took their places on the squad for a match against Newcastle Falcons, becoming the first twins ever to play on the same side in a Premiership match.
The Warriors finished the 2005-6 season in an even better place than the year before, just missing out on seventh place to finish eighth in the league.
The Club Today
2007 kicked off with a very disappointing performance in the Premiership from the Warriors, but some new signings showed promise and success and the European Challenge Cup is looking more hopeful. A good performance here could provide a route into the more prestigious Heineken Cup for the Warriors.
The club is currently undergoing massive, Duckworth-funded improvement. Sixways stadium is being renovated and expanded, and a health club, swimming pool and fitness centre are being installed on-site. The club also plans to fund regeneration in the local area.
The Warriors play in a blue and gold strip.
- Premiership Rugby Cup Champions: 2021-2022
- RFU Championship Champions: 2003-2004, 2010-2011, 2014-2015
- RFU Championship Runners-up: 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003
- National League 1 Champions: 1997-1998
- National League 2 North Champions: 1996-1997
- Midlands Premier Champions: 1994-1995
- Midlands 2 West Champions: 1992-1993
- North Midlands 1 Champions: 1989-1990
- European Challenge Cup Runners-up: 2007-2008
- European Shield Runners-up: 2004-2005
- British and Irish Cup Champions: 2014-2015
- North Midlands Cup Champions: 1977-1978, 1995-1996, 1997-1998
- North Midlands Cup Runners-up: 1976-1977, 1993-1994, 1996-1997
- Powerline Floodlit Cup Champions: 1997-1998