WORCESTER Warriors’ Jonathan Thomas says young star fly-half Fin Smith must be managed in the coming years after his apparent promotion to first team selection.

He had featured on the bench in three Gallagher Premiership games; Bristol, Wasps and Gloucester before his first start against Bath in March.

Worcester were battered in the first-half that day, conceding 40 points as Bath were rampant and it was a tricky start for Smith’s debut.

But he improved in the second-half and went on to produce an assured display with some moments of real quality as Warriors rallied to earn a second-half bonus-point.

Much was made of that second-half performance an supporters were rightly singing his praises but head coach Thomas knows he must be “protected” as much as he is exposed.

“You’ve got a duty of care as a coach and that was part of the reason we left him out there for 80 minutes against Bath,” he said.

“If you go back to the last month or so he’d been an unused replacement in a few games, as well as getting on the pitch against Gloucester.

“But I spoke to him after those that he didn’t get on the pitch and because the games were so tight, I think it would have been unfair for him. You don’t want to put a young man into a game that’s tight and him have too many setbacks

“We have to protect him but we also need to expose him when you think he needs to be exposed. The easiest thing would have been to take him off after half-time against Bath but the first 40 was a big learning experience for him but we wanted to see if he could come back from it in the second half.

“I’m glad we did because he came back and did well. It’s always horses for courses, it’s about exposing him in the right moments.

“These young guys have to work hard, it’s not a given they get game time. They have to earn the right to play, it’s not an invitation. There’s a good balance to be had.”

Smith, 18, became the youngest Worcester player to start a Premiership fixture in the club’s history when he took to the field at The Rec last month.

His potential should excite all at the club but there should be zero pressure at this stage.