Curtis Langdon Exclusive: ‘I was probably quite naïve to what was actually going on’

Curtis Langdon (left), Fergus Lee-Warner (middle) and Cam Neild (right) all arrived at Sixways in the summer
©Curtis Langdon

New Montpellier hooker Curtis Langdon is preparing for a trip to Paris. Having recently put pen to paper with the Top 14 champions, the England international is adjusting to life with a new club just several weeks after his contract with Worcester Warriors was cancelled when the club entered administration.

His time at Sixways Stadium was short-lived and surrounded by controversy as the club contended with off-field financial issues, eventually leading to their suspension and relegation from the Gallagher Premiership. Following his former Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond to the West Midlands, Langdon’s arrival at Worcester was supposed to be the start of the team’s new era.

Winning the Premiership Rugby Cup last May, it certainly appeared that way but the club only managed to play three matches this season before their fate was sealed, the players and staff forced to find work elsewhere.

“It started off all really positively,” Langdon told TRU. “Then getting paid late on our first month wasn’t ideal. We got paid a couple of days late and I kind of thought it would be alright, and we’d get paid on time the next month. I was probably quite naïve to what was actually going on.

“Then the second month came around and we were paid late again and the following month we weren’t paid at all. It was tough. There was so much speculation. Like in pre-season, were we going to play our pre-season fixtures? They were cancelled a couple of days before we were supposed to be playing them, and then the following week we weren’t even sure If we were going to play London Irish until two days before.

“The Exeter game was definitely going ahead, but even the last game we played as a group against Newcastle, we had a meeting before the day of the game, we had a call with the RPA and they said we were going ahead with this game, but there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

“There was a lot of risks to playing because of stuff like insurance not being paid, not knowing if we had a job the following week. There were risks of playing the game and picking up injuries, but as a group, we decided that for the club we would play and show a good account of ourselves and would be best in attracting new buyers.

“But we were having this conversation a day before a game which isn’t ideal when you are trying to prep for a tough Premiership game against Newcastle. The game went ahead after them discussions, but we played well and I think that kind of just showed how much the club meant to the group of lads.

“Not even just the players, all the coaches, all the staff at the club not being paid, only being paid 65 per cent and still turning up and doing their jobs to the best of their ability, even with all the distractions and speculation around what was going on at the time.”

Langdon and his teammates had to learn about developments of the club behind the scenes from Diamond, team manager Luke Broadley, social media or emails carrying the message that there was no update, something the 25-year-old describes as ‘not being very useful’.

An impressive aspect of the whole saga was how the team expressed unity through the message of ‘Together’. It was attached to every social media post, displaying that despite the outside noise, the group would remain together until their fate was sealed at the beginning of the month.

In the weeks that have followed, some of the playing squad have filtered into other teams. A clutch have made their way down the M5 to Bath, Ollie Lawrence, Ted Hill, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jamie Shillcock and Billy Searle the men that now call The Recreation Ground home, while Joe Batley has returned to Bristol, Rory Sutherland has gone to Ulster, Fin Smith has gone to Northampton Saints and Duhan van der Merwe is back in Edinburgh.

“I met with Dimes last season when I was at Sale, and he spoke to me about the ambitions for the club this year and the other guys he was bringing in and the role he wanted me to have within the team,” Langdon said.

“I still believe now, if we were able to play this season with that Worcester squad, we still would have had the best finish in the league that Worcester have ever had. It is just a shame that we weren’t able to do that.

“Lads like Ted [Hill], Ollie [Lawrence], even boys like Ferg Lee-Warner that had come from Australia and the new lads that had come in, they were enjoying being at the club and then having to find another place to go and play. That was tough.

“Seeing the fans after the Newcastle game and the support we had throughout the whole three months of this season with everything that was going on has been really good. It probably helped, as well, with keeping us together.

“I’d say probably the toughest thing is that now the club has gone into liquidation, we are all looking for other clubs and so many good players not being able to find clubs. It’ll be two months without getting paid, some lads have mortgages to pay, families to look after and are struggling to find work. It is very sad to see.

“I do feel fortunate. Looking around the Prem, it is tough with the salary cap and with clubs being done with their recruitment. You don’t expect to be able to bring in players at this part of the season, three games in.

Worcester Warriors players at their final training session together as a group
©Curtis Langdon

“This came up over in France, the French champions, it is really good, and I am grateful to be here. I am looking forward to getting back on the field and playing some rugby.”

It is a fate that those that were once Wasps players have also experienced following their own financial misfortune. Similarly placed into administration this month, fans of the former Premiership and European champions have had to watch Josh Bassett move to Harlequins, Biyi Alo sign for Racing 92 and Will Porter complete a move to Bristol Bears.

In signing for Philippe Saint-Andre’s Montpellier following his short-lived time with Worcester, Langdon will be able to focus fully on rugby once more. As landing spots go, the south of France isn’t a bad one to begin with, but when you tie in that the England international will be playing for the current French champions, it is certainly an attractive opportunity.

Picked up at the airport by his former England U20s captain, incumbent Top 14 player of the year and Gloucester-bound Zach Mercer, Langdon is preparing for a fresh chapter on the continent. Training with his new teammates, having a French lesson or two and mirroring the squad on their recent trip to Racing 92 to see how gameday operations run, the hooker is hoping to be in contention for the visit of Stade Francais this coming weekend.

“Really excited,” Langdon said. “I watched the game against Lyon at the weekend, and the atmosphere over here is ridiculous. I think just being at that game, even though it wasn’t the best performance for Montpellier, seeing the atmosphere and everything, it got me so excited to play.

“There are obviously some great players at Montpellier and lads that have played in the Premiership previously as well, like Titi [Lamositele], Zach and Cobus Reinach. I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing with them. There is some real good players here. I just want to get on the pitch as quick as possible now and do the best I can for the side.”