A LACK of intensity in pre-season left Worcester Warriors “behind the black ball” heading into the new campaign.

That’s the claim from director of rugby Gary Gold who believes Warriors could have underestimated the rigour of their new pitch.

Warriors ripped up their grass pitch and installed a new artificial surface to help boost revenue from commercial events.

But Worcester were struck by a wrath of injuries to key players during the summer and in the early part of the term as the depleted squad struggled on the field.

In the autumn, high performance director Nick Johnston defended the training regime and said there had “not been a lot wrong” with the programmes.

He claimed some of the injuries had been “down to bad luck”.

At the time, Johnston said: “Historically, most clubs are run at 25 per cent deficient in their squad at any point in the season and we have hit points that have been a lot higher than that.”

But Paddy Anson, formerly of Gloucester and Exeter Chiefs, has since been brought in to head up the strength and conditioning department.

And Gold, who arrived at Sixways at the end of January, has questioned Warriors’ pre-season preparation.

“Were we used to the speed of the new surface?,” he asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that because I wasn’t here but we seem to have got a good response from the guys when we ramped things up over the last couple of weeks.

“You raise the intensity in training on a Tuesday and Thursday and then let the bodies recover.

“You don’t want to go through the week without a game-related type of training schedule and it has all been part of some of the stuff we changed when Paddy and I came in.

“We wanted to try to push the limits in terms the levels of intensity in training.

“That becomes a risk particularly if guys who have been in a seven or eight month season already and are not used to that kind of intensity.

“But that is the intensity which comes with the Premiership so that’s where I think maybe we were a little bit behind the black ball going into this season.”

Warriors have picked up 10 points from four league matches under Gold, including wins over reigning champions Saracens and Bristol, and a try-scoring bonus point from a defeat against Exeter Chiefs.

They are seven points above Bristol and Gold says he has a lot of confidence in the squad as they prepare to face star-studded Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on March 26 (2.30pm).

“I have a lot of confidence in the group of players,” said Gold.

“There are certain things I asked for when I came in and whether we had won or not, I feel the guys have delivered.

“I have been very happy with the attitude of the playing group and I feel very welcome and I’ve had a couple of good performances.

“But the fight is not over yet and it’s important nobody takes their foot off the gas.

“I feel the players understand the magnitude of the challenge.

“It’s clear to them the job is not done yet.

“We have five games left and we need to win as many as possible.

“We are a nose hair in front (of Bristol) but we can’t rest on our laurels and I can’t stress that enough.”