sport

Ryan taunts Gloucester

Worcester rugby director Dean Ryan is set to make his first coaching return to a Gloucester side he thinks is in their worst rut for 15 years.

Ryan takes his Warriors, themselves winless in the Aviva Premiership this term, to Kingsholm on Sunday.

While Worcester have suffered nine straight losses in league action, that has not stopped Ryan twisting the knife against his old club.

Ryan coached at Gloucester between 2002 and 2009, overseeing a boom time at the West Country club under the late Tom Walkinshaw.

But the former Wasps and Newcastle number eight failed to deliver top trophy success, with Gloucester the league's nearly men, losing Premiership finals in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Ryan left Gloucester without ceremony in 2009, paying the price for failing to keep his silverware promise.

If relations were strained when he left four years ago, his observations this week about Gloucester's current barren spell under boss Nigel Davies will not help matters.

"I've never known Gloucester to be in this kind of position for 15 years," Ryan told Sky Sports.

"I don't understand why they are towards the bottom as they have a gifted backline."

Gloucester's England fly-half Freddie Burns has been heavily linked with a switch to Leicester Tigers, should captain Toby Flood quit Welford Road for Toulouse next season.

Flanker Akapusi Qera is expected to join Toulouse in January, and Ryan picked up that uncertainty thread in a bid to add an extra level of needle to an already-tetchy local derby clash.

Ryan said: "There are a lot of rumours linking a number of people with other places and I don't know whether that is unsettling them.

"I would love for this group to get reward for the hard work they have been doing.

"It would be a significant step turning into the new year with a win.

"We have to make sure we are as strong as we have been in recent weeks and get ourselves across the line.

"It's one of those derbies that adds a little bit of spice.

"There is friction and a bit of player traffic between the two."

Off-kilter Gloucester star Burns takes a seat on the bench as the Cherry and Whites will seek just their second home league win of the campaign, with new recruit Sila Puafisi making his full debut.

England playmaker Billy Twelvetrees steps in from centre to fly-half, with Mike Tindall starting at 12 alongside Henry Trinder at outside centre.

Worcester can call on centurions Alex Grove and Chris Pennell, who have both already signed new contracts this season, committing to the Sixways club.