Sitting in the luxurious surroundings of Bath’s Farleigh House training ground on Tuesday, Ollie Lawrence’s message to the disgraced owners of his former club Worcester was clear.
“They have to take responsibility for what they did,” Lawrence said of Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham’s destruction of the Sixways outfit. “They’re just trying to find excuses to make themselves look better when in reality they’re just making themselves look worse.”
Lawrence, 23, joined Worcester when he was 14. The Warriors gave him the platform to make it to the top tier and win seven caps for England. Now the club is in ruins.
Suspended from administration and all league activity, Goldring and Whittingham have led Worcester to the brink of extinction. Lawrence and other players have now found willows again.
The final straw for every Worcester staffer was a statement from Goldring and Whittingham blaming the players and fans for the club’s predicament and admitting no liability.
“It was a tough pill,” said Lawrence, who signed a long-term deal with Bath this week. “When this statement was released, it didn’t sit well with a lot of people. You cannot blame the players for the situation. If they couldn’t afford to keep the club, they should have made that clear earlier.
“There was no communication and the one time we got communication it was basically a slate. I really disagreed with the statement. We felt let down by the owners.
“There is an element of frustration and disappointment that they were allowed to do what they did.”
Lawrence is lucky that he already has a new employer. As a fully-fledged national player, he should never be short of offers. Many of his ex-Worcester colleagues are not so lucky.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions. I still live in Worcester. Until I move here (Bath) I don’t think it will fully sink. I don’t think it ever will, to be honest,” Lawrence added.
“It made me realize that rugby is something we all love to do, but it’s just so changeable and none of us saw what happened. That was the scariest thing.
“Reality has now sunk. Unfortunately we are in a situation where a lot of guys will potentially be out of the game for a long time. Some may retire – that’s the saddest thing.”
Lawrence still shares his Worcester home with former team-mate Ollie Wynn, who was left homeless when the club’s academy accommodation where he lived was confiscated.
Lawrence is hoping Bath, who has been unbeaten in the Premier League this season, will impress and help him secure a place back in Eddie Jones’ England squad.
“I want to get back in the England mix,” said Lawrence, who scored in his last international against the United States in July 2021. I might have lost a little bit of pace after we played USA and Canada.
Two other Worcester players in Andrew Kitchener and Tom Howe found new homes on Tuesday after they both signed three-month deals with Saracens.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of France’s World Cup bid was fired less than a year before next year’s tournament. An investigation found that Claude Atcher oversaw an environment where bullied employees reportedly suffered from panic attacks and burnout.