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2nd Aug, 2021

Former skipper GJ and legend Pennell among Sixways departures

Rob George 15th Jun, 2021

FORMER skipper GJ Van Velze and club legend Chris Pennell are among 20 players leaving Warriors in an exodus following the Sixways side’s dreadful 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership campaign.

Warriors finished bottom of the pack and saw their final game of the season cancelled on Saturday (June 12) after a number of positive Covid tests in the Gloucester camp.

Despite finishing 18 points behind 11th placed Gloucester, Warriors only avoided relegation because of the ban imposed by Premiership Rugby chiefs on demotion from the top flight for this season.

Following the end of the campaign, Warriors are saying farewell to 20 players with more than 1,000 appearances for the club between them.

Those leaving Sixways alongside Pennell, who has made 253 appearances for the club, are two more members of the 100 Club, former captain GJ van Velze and tighthead prop Nick Schonert.

Van Velze, 33, joined Warriors from Northampton Saints in 2014 and captained the side to the Greene King IPA Championship title in his first season at Sixways.

He made his 100th appearance for the club against Wasps at Sixways in January 2020 and his 110th and final appearance as a replacement against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park earlier this month.

“I am incredibly thankful and grateful to all the amazing Warriors supporters who make our sport what it is,” van Velze said.

“Thank you for all the memories. One chapter is closing, but I’m excited to open the next one.”

Schonert, along with Scotland international back-row forward Cornell du Preez have been released early from their respective contracts and been given permission to speak to other clubs.

The other players who will be leaving Warriors at the end of this month are back-row forward Marco Mama, Samoa international wing Ed Fidow, tighthead prop Conor Carey, scrum-halves Jono Kitto and Michael Heaney, hooker and team captain Matt Moulds and back-row forward Matti Williams.

Scrum-half Luke Baldwin, who has spent the past two seasons on loan with Dragons in the Guinness Pro14 will also leave Sixways at the end of his contract.

Prop Callum Black and back-row forward Matt Cox, who have each made more than 100 appearances for the club, announced earlier this week that are retiring from professional rugby.

Scrum-half Francois Hougaard (Wasps), full-back Nick David (Harlequins), fly-half Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) utility back Scott van Breda (Jersey Reds), lock George Merrick and tighthead prop Richard Palframan (both Newcastle Falcons) have already confirmed moves to other clubs.

Head coach Jonathan Thomas and director of rugby Alan Solomons both paid tribute to the departing players for their commitment during a ‘challenging year’ because of the pandemic.

“In these unprecedented times players have needed to be adaptable and I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism,” Thomas said.

“In GJ’s case, I played under his captaincy and I’ve now coached him. Every team needs good leaders and GJ, from the outset, demonstrated great leadership skills and led by example at a time when we needed people to stand up.”

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