Kicking off the Aviva Premiership Rugby season at Twickenham against the defending champions might be daunting for some, but in Donncha O’Callaghan, Worcester Warriors have a man who knows what it takes to win at the home of English rugby.
Now 37, O’Callaghan is in his second campaign at Sixways after 17 seasons at Munster, and on the international stage he was twice victorious over England at Twickenham.
However following last season’s humbling 48-18 defeat to Saracens at rugby HQ, O’Callaghan is well aware that Worcester need to make a flying start if they are to spring a surprise on the champions.
“They were incredible when we played them last year,” said O’Callaghan.
“When the fixtures were announced and we saw that game, we didn’t even look at the rest of the season.
“If you don’t bring your best on the day then you can be on the end of a really disappointing result. That’s what happened to us last year.
“They are formidable opposition and have dominated this league so we have to be at our best.
“Twickenham is a big arena and I’ve obviously played there a few times. I won’t need to do anything to get the guys up for it.
“When you play at a ground like that, everyone is buzzing. It’s the chance for all the family to be able to come along and watch so you want to make sure you perform.”
It’s been a summer of change at Worcester with Carl Hogg stepping into the top job after Dean Ryan’s departure to work with the RFU.
But having secured their Aviva Premiership Rugby status on their return to the top flight last year, O’Callaghan explained that Worcester are aiming much higher this year.
“Last year it was important to establish ourselves in the league again but when you look back there are a few regrets,” he added.
“There were a lot of games which we lost by seven points or less and should have got more out of.
“It was such a competitive league that just a couple of wins there and we might have been pushing to finish much higher.
“This year we have to improve in those games and earn people’s respect. We want to show that we have pushed on as a team.
“Having Carl take over has gone very smoothly. I obviously knew him well already because he was working with the forwards last year. It’s a different role but everyone knows he’s the main man.
“It could have been really tough with Dean leaving, but it’s gone really well. Everyone has worked hard and hopefully we will be ready for the new season.”
Start the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season in style with two games from £25 at Twickenham. Harlequins v Bristol Rugby and Saracens v Worcester Warriors in the London Double Header, 3 September. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk