Former All Blacks star Rico Gear and his Worcester team-mates have set their sights on qualification for next season’s Heineken Cup.
The ex-Blues and Crusaders wing, who featured for his country against the 2005 Lions, believes the Warriors have enough quality in their squad to finish in the top six in the Guinness Premiership and qualify for the first time for Europe’s premier club competition.
Worcester begun the new league season with a narrow defeat at Northampton and a comfortable win over Leeds Carnegie and Gear believes there is plenty more to come from Mike Ruddock’s men throughout the rest of the 2009/10 campaign.
"We’ve got reasonable depth in the squad now so I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t qualify for the Heineken Cup via the top six,” said Gear, who has been among the replacements for Worcester opening two fixtures.
"There’s a realistic opportunity for us this year. The first half of the season will be important for us. People always say it takes time to get things together but there’s a chance for us to pick up some wins early on.
"I think we’re looking a lot better than we were at the beginning of last year. We probably didn’t have the best pre-season last year. I think we probably over-reacted to some of the ELVs. We perhaps focused a bit too much on that when not a lot had actually changed.
"But we’ve got a happy environment and it’s a good place to be…(and when that happens) everyone seems to give a bit more."
As well as insisting that the squad as a whole are in good shape for another long season of domestic and Challenge Cup rugby, Gear says he himself is feeling far fitter than last season.
The 31-year-old has been suffering from a re-occurring injury since joining Worcester from Canterbury in 2007 but he is confident that fans at Sixways will see the best of him this term.
"I had a lot of trouble with my hamstring over the last 18 months," explained Gear, who scored 65 points in 20 Test caps for the All Blacks.
"I’m still working on it but I’ve definitely made some strides with it. That’s pleasing for myself. You definitely learn how to manage your body. If I can get things right, I’d like to perform better as I haven’t quite been where I want to be.
"I’m really enjoying my time with Worcester. Rugby in England has been what I expected, I guess. The level of competition is right up there.
"The weather obviously plays a big part in the way teams can play so for the majority of the season you have to be a bit smarter about the way you approach the game. We want to play an expansive game here but that’s not always possible. It’s just about making sure we adapt to the conditions."