CONTROVERSIAL Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards has launched an astonishing broadside against Warriors winger David Lemi.

The outspoken former Leicester and Harlequins director of rugby branded the Samoan speedster as 'past his sell-by date'.

Speaking at a Falcons fans' forum, the ex-England number eight went on the defensive when questioned about the calibre of players he planned to recruit.

Championship big-spenders Bristol have already announced the high-profile capture of Lemi, 32, and ex-Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel among others, but Richards did not like the inference that Falcons were being outmanoeuvred in the transfer market.

He snapped: "Lemi is how old? We will sign people who will make us competitive, and it is as simple as that.

"You want me to sign Lemi? Well, I've got news for you. He's too old, he is past his sell-by date and isn't perhaps one of the best wingers around at this moment in time.

“We will be competitive and will sign the people we think will fit in with the culture and character traits and have the ability that will add to us."

Given Warriors travel to Newcastle for an Aviva Premiership relegation showdown a week on Sunday, the timing of the comments is remarkable and will only serve to stoke the fires at Sixways.

Richards, who was infamously banned from the sport for his involvement in the 'Bloodgate' scandal while he was in charge at Harlequins, also questioned Warriors' adherence to the league's salary cap.

Talking about Falcons' recruitment, he said: "It is one of those where you could do a Worcester and throw a lot of money at it, up to and probably, in Worcester's case, over the salary cap, and not have a culture."

He then sarcastically added: "Sorry, they are probably at the salary cap. I won't spend massive amounts because, every time you do that, you invariably find yourself disappointed unless you buy loads and loads of guys at a huge cost, a little bit like Bath and Saracens and Worcester, who have stuck to the salary cap."

Richards' blunt comments could easily be used by Worcester director of rugby Dean Ryan as a motivational tool going into the biggest fortnight in the Sixways club's history.

Warriors entertain Wasps at Sixways on Friday night (7.45pm) and Ryan says it is paramount his struggling side win their first league game of the season in order to gain much-needed momentum ahead of the Kingston Park clash the following weekend.

“We know we are staring at relegation if we can’t win in Newcastle," he admitted. "We know that going there with a win from the Wasps game is a key influencer to us being successful at Kingston Park.

“Relegation pressure is different to game-winning pressure and that has sat heavy over the club all season.

“Before the season, everyone talked about Worcester, London Irish and Newcastle as the three favourites for relegation.

"We then missed beating both London Irish and Newcastle at Sixways and that has put us under pressure ever since."