DIRECTOR of rugby Gary Gold has urged his players to “put a marker down” as Worcester Warriors return to action against Hartpury at Sixways tomorrow (4pm).

After more than a month on the training field Gold insists he will not be treating the pre-season opener as another “fitness run” as he looks for a big performance from his men.

Hartpury are preparing for their first season in the Championship after gaining promotion from National League One.

But Gold says Warriors cannot afford to take the “much-improved” Gloucestershire outfit, who won all 30 of their league games last term, lightly.

“We want players to put a marker down so we are certainly not seeing this game as a fitness run,” Gold said.

“Hartpury have been a much-improved team and I think they are going to be really competitive in the Championship this year.

“So I definitely wouldn’t want to take them lightly.”

After tackling Hartpury Warriors will then visit Birmingham Moseley next Friday (7.30pm) before hosting Munster on Thursday, August 24 (7.30pm).

And Gold says he is keen to make sure his squad are not “undercooked” by the time they visit Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership on Friday, September 1.

“We will probably balance the squad a little between the first two games and then start to take shape against Munster,” Gold said.

“So it is critically important the guys get time on the field because otherwise you are going to lose out on that opportunity.

“You don’t want to start the Premiership undercooked but you certainly do not want to go in too tired because you have played so much rugby.

“It is that critical balance but I think we will get it right.”