CAPTAIN Gerrit-Jan van Velze believes fearless forward Andrew Kitchener is among a cluster of rising stars that will be pushing for starting positions next term.

Kitchener joined Warriors’ youth set up in 2014, made his first-team debut two years later and graduated to the senior squad this summer after achieving a first-class honours degree.

Van Velze has witnessed Kitchener’s development over the past five years and thinks the future is bright for the 23-year-old lock.

“He is very athletic, gets around the park and throws his body around,” van Velze said.

“He is not scared.

“He hits anything that moves. He is also a good in the lineout and is only going to get better.

“He has got a great attitude as he is willing to work hard.

“If he continues to do that, I think he has got a great future ahead of him.”

Kitchener featured 15 times in the blue and gold last season while flanker Ted Hill, 20, and centre Ollie Lawrence, 19, also made their mark in the Gallagher Premiership.

And van Velze, 31, reckons midfield playmaker Will Butler, 21, and second row James Scott, 20, will join the promising trio in battling for first-team spots next term.

Van Velze who arrived at Worcester in 2014 says he has been “proud” to witness the club’s top talent burst onto the scene and expects their emergence will help to increase attendances at Sixways.

“I am very excited about Kitch, Scotty, Ted, Ollie and Will,” van Velze said.

“These are all youngsters coming through our system that are going to be putting their hands up for starting positions next season week in, week out.

“It is exciting when you see homegrown talent playing in the Premiership. It is going to put more people in the stands and make us move forward as an organisation.

“We have got people coming through our system, learning good behaviours and attitudes and playing top level rugby.

“We are very privileged at Warriors as the club leaves no stone unturned in terms of strength and conditioning, medical and coaching.

“We have also got Lynette (Cutting, honorary education officer) who helps to find balance outside of rugby.

“These players have everything they need to be successful.”

Number eight van Velze is also relishing the tussle for places at Warriors with the club’s young guns aiming to oust the more experienced players.

“We are competitive animals – we wouldn’t be in this environment if we weren’t,” van Velze said.

“To see a youngster coming through makes you feel proud as you have seen him when he arrived at the club and is now 15kgs stronger and hits everything that moves.

“But it also puts pressure on yourself to make sure you perform and do your job.”