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Worcester Warriors and England centre Ben Te’o looks set to return to action for his team’s European Rugby Challenge Cup tie with Russian visitors Enisei-STM.
The Warriors are unable to qualify from Pool 3 and host Enisei with both sides having little to play for, at least on paper.
But with midfield powerhouse Te’o likely to be back in action, Carl Hogg’s men have a chance to return to winning ways and building some confidence before returning to domestic action.
Te’o hasn’t featured for the Sixways outfit since their 24-17 victory over Harlequins on New Year’s Day and the former Leinster back’s availability is set to boost Hogg.
He said: “Ben is a quality player and we need him to be playing more often for us. He’s had one or two niggling injuries and concussion as well.
“We’re just looking forward to getting Ben out there at the weekend and he’s usually influential for us when he plays.
“We have had some mitigating circumstances with a long list of injuries but we find ourselves where we are and now we have to bounce back.”
Worcester were beaten by Brive last weekend, a result which saw their hopes of a place in the knock-out stages disappear.
And with the ever-improving Enisei arriving in the Midlands on the back of a 19-12 win over the Warriors in the return fixture, victory is far from guaranteed.
On the reversal to Brive, Hogg added: “It was a huge effort and the energy within the group was outstanding.
“I was disappointed the players did not get their reward. To get a penalty against you in the last play of the game and to kick that from 45 metres was frustrating.
“We had put ourselves in a position where we had possession in the last two or three minutes and we needed to stay tight and compact to see it out.
“But if you looked at the performance there were some very good parts in there and some stand-out individual and team performances from the group.”
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Hat-trick hero Dean Hammond made sure Worcester Warriors bowed out of Europe in style with a nine-try Pool 3 demolition of Enisei-STM at Sixways Stadium.
It was just a second win of the campaign for the Warriors – who went down 19-12 against the Russian club in their Round 1 contest at Slava Stadium Enisei-STM – but this 57-14 romp was some revenge for that defeat while the Russian club also bow out of their debut European campaign with two group wins.
Connor Braid opened proceedings for Carl Hogg’s men with an early penalty goal and then Hammond started making his presence felt with the ball in hand, his work carried on by Matt Cox and Sam Betty for Val Rapava Ruskin to provide the finishing touches with the first try.
Dmitri Gerasimov went close for the visitors but a nice finish from Hammond in the corner notched up try No 2 before Enisei looked to batter their way over the 22 through captain Yury Baranov.
Braid missed a penalty opportunity when he pushed his attempt wide but the Russians promptly gave him another chance and this time he made no mistake with the simpler kick.
Full back Ben Howard then made 50 metres slicing open Enisei and Hammond profited from that searing run with his second and Warriors’ third try.
There was more woe for the Russians when Igor Kurashov was sent to the sin bin by Welsh referee Dan Jones and flanker Sam Betty cashed in against the 14-man opponents by crossing for the bonus point try after 34 minutes, Braid converting.
Enisei did get close with Maxime Gargalik but a nice crossfield kick by Jamie Shillcock bounced kindly for Hammond to collect and pocket his hat-trick.
Braid converted but Enisei had the last word of the half as Mikhail Gachechiladze crashed over and Yuri Kushnarev added the conversion for a 35-7 scoreline at the break.
Warriors were relieved to have midfield powerhouse Te'o back in action and he set up Ben Howard for an easy score and their sixth try but the Russians proved they would not go quietly with Valeri Morozov burrowing over from close range and Kushnarev converting.
But the Russians were reduced to 14 men for the final 12 minutes when – with that man Hammond bearing down on him – Kurashov illegally putting the ball out and referee Jones awarding a penalty try and showing the Russian the red card.
Tiff Eden added the extra points with Sam Ripper-Smith and Max Stelling going over in the dying minutes to wrap matters up in style.
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