WORCESTER Warriors head coach has paid tribute to Worcester “talisman” Francois Hougaard, after it was confirmed he will move on from the club at the end of this season to join Premiership rivals Wasps.

It has been long speculated that the South African international scrum-half would leave and after Warriors signed the likes of Will Chudley (Bath) and Willi Heinz (Gloucester), it became evident Hougaard would bring his Worcester career to an end.

But Thomas was full of admiration for the 32-year old and suggested Warriors might not be where they are today without him.

“Houggie has been such a talisman for this club over the last five seasons,” said Thomas.

“Over the last five years Worcester have been trying to fight relegation and keep their heads above water and that’s something we are planning on changing but what you’ve seen from Francois is that he has been that talisman that all teams need.

“He’s got Worcester out of trouble on numerous occasions.

“You need big players to inspire those around them and for me that’s the definition of what a leader is, those who sacrifice themselves and inspire those to play better than what they think they can and that’s what Houggie has done and Wasps have got themselves a good man and a good player.

“We part on good terms, he has had a great time at Worcester and he will always be welcomed back at any time in the future.”

Having spent five years at Worcester, Hougaard has become part of the furniture and was always one of the first names on the teamsheet but Thomas is happy in the knowledge that they have softened the blow of his departure by recruiting well.

“Recruitment is always a juggling act, the salary cap being reduced has played a big factor on all the clubs,” he added.

“Everyone knows what were trying to do here with our younger players but they need to be helped along by more experienced players as well. We have made some good signings around leadership and we’re happy with the options we have recruited and those we already have.”