WORCESTER Warriors will be without talisman Jonathan Thomas for the start of their Greene King IPA Championship campaign because of injury.

The Welsh number eight has been sidelined since tearing his calf during pre-season training earlier this month.

He has not been involved in any of the three warm-up fixtures, the last of which is against Exeter Chiefs at Sixways tonight (7.30pm).

He is also expected to miss the eagerly-awaited curtain-raiser at Bristol on Sunday week and the visit of Moseley on Saturday, September 13.

Thomas said: “I pulled up a few weeks ago with a small tear in my calf in training.

“It was right at the end of pre-season but it’s put me out of the pre-season games and the first two games of the season.

“I am hoping to be back for mid-September. It’s frustrating because there’s a good vibe at the club at the moment and we have had a couple of good performances.”

Gerrit-Jan van Velze continues in the number eight shirt against the Chiefs — Matt Cox played there in the Ospreys victory — and also captains the side, as he did against Sale Sharks last week.

Thomas was skipper last season and there has been no indications to suggest that he won’t continue in the role this season.

An announcement on who will captain Warriors for the 2014-15 campaign should be made before Wednesday’s official league launch.

Former captain Chris Pennell is also in the team to face Exeter as he prepares to wear the Warriors shirt for the first time since his international debut for England earlier this summer.

Tom Biggs, who moved from Bath at the end of last season, is also poised to make his debut in Craig Gillies’ testimonial match.

Pennell and Biggs form part of a much-changed back-line that also includes Andy Symons, Alex Grove, Ignacio Mieres and Jonny Arr.

Sam Smith keeps his place on the wing as one of just five players who started last Saturday’s 22-16 defeat at Sale.

Ryan Bower, Dan George and Nick Schonert make up the front row, while Christian Scotland-Williamson gets his third start of pre-season at lock alongside Dan Sanderson.

Versatile back-row Mike Williams will again play at number six with Matt Cox at openside.

The replacements include academy fly-half Tiff Eden, who kicked 11 points against Sale, and prop Mike Daniels.

Academy graduate Ben Howard is also on the bench despite having scored two tries in the last two matches.

Warriors: Pennell; Smith, Grove, Symons, Biggs; Mieres, Arr; Bower, George, Schonert, Scotland-Williamson, Sanderson, Williams, Cox, van Velze.

Replacements: Annett, Rapava-Ruskin, Daniels, Percival, Betty, Mulchrone, Eden, Stelling, Fatiaki, Hammond, Howard.