WORCESTER Warriors embark on their new season this weekend knowing that nothing less than promotion will suffice.

Following relegation from the Aviva Premiership last term, everything has been geared towards returning to the top table of English rugby.

Indeed, Warriors are still set up like a Premiership club and just about everyone I’ve spoken to at Sixways this summer talks candidly about Warriors becoming a top-six side in the top-flight sooner rather than later.

For that to happen, promotion from the Championship has to be secured, but doing so is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Not that Worcester are expecting an easy ride. They know they will have to earn any success over the next nine months and prove their worth.

Likewise, they also know there are a number of clubs intent on derailing their title charge.

Bristol know a thing or two about other teams not reading the script, having been pipped at the post by London Welsh last season.

They will be among Worcester’s chief rivals for promotion via the play-offs.

They, too, harbour ambitions of restoring their Premiership status under former England and Scotland coach Andy Robinson.

Which is why this Sunday’s pipe-opener between the sides at Ashton Gate is so intriguing.

While the result might not matter massively in the grand scheme of the league table — with the top four reaching the play-offs next May — it is crucial in terms of laying down a marker.

Observers will be looking to this fixture as a gauge for the campaign ahead. Dean Ryan’s side might be a work in progress but that is unlikely to cut much ice with supporters if they end up on the wrong end of the scoreline.

Getting off on the front foot is vital and beating Bristol would be just the ticket.