ACADEMY coach Gordon Ross says the expansion of the A League has been valuable to his young crop of Worcester Warriors players.

The competition, now known as the Premiership Rugby Shield, was revamped ahead of the 2017-18 season with teams in the North Conference, including Worcester Cavaliers, playing 10 matches instead of five.

Premiership Rugby’s decision came under fire from Warriors’ ex-director of rugby Gary Gold last summer as he felt the amount of games would mount “more pressure” on clubs.

Ross, who runs the Cavaliers side, said it was difficult at times to field a side as Worcester’s first team was hit by a long list of injuries.

But the backs transition coach reckoned the increase in matches was beneficial to the club’s youngsters.

“It was obviously very tough from our point of view at the start of the season as we struggled to get personnel,” Ross said.

“But when the senior guys dropped back into the Cavaliers and the academy guys were fit as well it was brilliant for us.

“We want to be exposing our academy players to as much senior rugby as possible.

“They do some good stuff in the National Leagues but the standard in the A League is better.

“I think the last four weeks of the season were brilliant as it was four games back-to-back with good input from coaches and players and we managed to get a pretty settled team out so you could see improvements every week.”

Ross highlighted the progression of full-back Nick David, 19, as he made the transition to adult rugby.

“When we played Leicester (on the opening day) it was Nick’s first senior game,” Ross said.

“He had no idea how to warm up or how to prepare for the game but now he is in a good routine.

“He knows what he is doing and he has come on in leaps and bounds so hopefully that will stand him in good stead moving forward.

“We want guys like Nick playing in the highest standard of rugby possible and the A League competition at times has been excellent for that.”

Cavaliers suffered two heavy defeats in the opening month, losing 61-12 to Leicester Tigers and 41-19 to Northampton Wanderers.

But Worcester bounced back with a 32-6 victory over Wasps and went on to win four of their next seven games to finish third in their group.

“Me and (academy forwards transition coach) Mike Hill have had some tough times trying to find a team, making phone calls late at night and early in the morning prior to kick-off,” Ross added.

“But the two of us have enjoyed it.

“It has been hugely rewarding to see the academy guys who put in the hard work behind the scenes play well on the pitch. That’s been the most pleasing thing.”