Chris Pennell: Worcester Warriors 'club legend' to exit as part of huge reshuffle

Chris Pennell has spent his entire career at Worcester Warriors
Chris Pennell has spent his entire career at Worcester Warriors

Worcester Warriors full-back Chris Pennell is to leave after 14 years' service - mostly in the Premiership.

The 34-year-old once-capped England international, who has been used sparingly this season, is part of an end-of-season dressing room reshuffle.

Prop Nick Schonert, 29, an ex-England squad pick, and Scotland international Cornell du Preez, 30, will also leave.

Both forwards have been released early from their contracts and given permission to talk to other clubs.

Former captain GJ van Velze, 33, is also part of a 20-man exodus from Sixways that includes four already confirmed moves - scrum-half Francois Hougaard to Wasps, winger/full-back Nick David to Harlequins, Scotland international fly-half Duncan Weir to Glasgow Warriors and utility back Scott van Breda to Jersey Reds.

Schonert, who came from Cheetahs in his native South Africa, and Van Velze, who joined from Northampton, are Warriors' two most continuously long-serving players, having both arrived in 2014.

In addition, it has now been announced that lock George Merrick and tight-head prop Richard Palframan are to both join Newcastle Falcons.

Prop Callum Black and back-row forward Matt Cox announced earlier this week that they are retiring from professional rugby.

The other eight players to leave are back-row forwards Marco Mama and Matti Williams, scrum-halves Jono Kitto and Michael Heaney, Samoa international wing Ed Fidow, tight-head prop Conor Carey, hooker Matt Moulds and scrum-half Luke Baldwin, who has spent the past two seasons on loan with Dragons in the Pro14.

Warriors have so far made nine signings for next season, including five internationals, Wales stand-off Owen Williams, England scrum-half Willi Heinz, Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe, Wales hooker Scott Baldwin from Harlequins and Tonga number eight Sione Vailanu from Wasps.

Worcester will also bring in Bath scrum-half Will Chudley and three forwards - props Christian Judge and Jack Owlett and the versatile Kyle Hatherell from Jersey Reds.

Pennell proud of long Sixways association

"I am incredibly proud of my time with the club," said Pennell, who scored 43 tries in 253 Premiership games for the club.

"I feel very fortunate to have been doing what I have been doing with Worcester for so many years.

"It's a really exciting time for the club with all the changes that have been made. I hope success will be just around the corner."

Pennell, son of the late former Kent, Worcestershire and England Test cricketer Graham Dilley, is open to offers, as well as being ready to pursue a new business interest in the area.

Chris Pennell and Jonny May
Chris Pennell scored his only try in an England shirt in the 38-7 victory against Crusaders at Christchurch in June 2014 - on the same tour that he won his only cap

"The romantic in me thinks it would be nice to finish my playing career at Sixways," he said. "But it's also exciting for me to explore other opportunities.

"It has been a good number of years since there was any consideration of playing for another team.

"And with my body but, more importantly, my head in a really good place, now is the time to move on."

The long-time Sixways crowd favourite has been denied the chance of a farewell appearance following the cancellation of Saturday's final Premiership home game against Gloucester because of a Covid-19 outbreak in the opponents' camp.

"Pens is one of the club legends," said Warriors director of rugby Alan Solomons. "To make 250 appearances for one club is an incredible achievement and speaks volumes about the man. He is one of a kind. We have been blessed to have him spend his entire career here."

Warriors head coach Jonathan Thomas added: "I played with Pens when I first came here. He's an awesome person, an awesome friend. Everyone knows what a loyal servant he has been over a long period of time and a consistent performer.

"I have no doubt that he will be a success in whatever he does because he is a class act as a bloke and the way he carries himself. I am sad it's the end of an era because he is a special man. The club will not feel the same without him around as a player because it feels like he has been Worcester."

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