Rugby returns to Ashton Gate with no fans this weekend and David Challis caught up with Pat Lam and Luke Morahan to get all the insight in the Bristol camp. Ahead of taking on already relegated Saracens both spoke of the need to make a fast start in order to press home their top-four ambitions.
Lam and Morahan gave us insight into how their star new signings have integrated into the side. They also made a case for how important a fast start is and gave us a low down on what the squad may look like over what is going to be a jam-packed few months of rugby.
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Importance of a Fast Start
How teams begin again after the break in the season could be pivotal to how their season’s end up. Lam and Morahan extolled its importance during our chat with them.
Morahan said, “there’s a lot of reasons why a fast start’s important”. This is in no small part to “continue the trend we’re going on”.
Bristol are banging on the door of a top-four finish for the first time in many years. Beginning again strong against a still star-studded Saracens could be key to their continued success.
New Signings to make an impact
More than most, Bristol have strengthened significantly during the break. They welcome Semi Radradra, Mitch Eadie, Ben Earl and Max Malins amongst others into their ranks for the end of this season.
Morahan noted the importance of their star signing Radradra. He said, “Semi’s unbelievable, he’s very naturally gifted but he works really hard”.
Pat Lam also pointed out the impact Radradra has had on the squad: “He’s a real team man, that’s what I love about him”.
Bristol now boast one of the deepest and most talented back lines in the Premiership. This was something Morahan was quick to point out.
“we’ve got the depth there now that will worry people”
Integrating these new players could be seen as a concern. Such big names coming into the side could be destabilising. However, Lam and Morahan has hailed the culture of the club in allowing them to get the new players up to speed quickly.
“It’s gelled really quickly,” said Morahan. He even went as far as to say “the new players coming have given guys the extra motivation”.
Bristol’s squad is currently very close to full strength. Pat Lam expects all of his new signings to feature over the coming weeks.
Planning for a Jam-Packed Schedule
When rugby restarts this Friday it marks almost twelve months of straight rugby for some players. This naturally, raises player welfare and burnout issues. Now more than ever the strength of a squad will be a key factor in determining success.
Lam noted, “there’s no way everyone’s going to play every one of those games, obviously”. However, he did point out “we’ve been waiting for rugby to come back and we’re excited about it”.
This is the longest many players have spent without a game of rugby in their lives. Most are champing at the bit to get back on the pitch and Lam thinks that will carry them through.
Bears to Perform for Fans Despite Empty Stadiums
Pat Lam and everyone at Bristol looks primed to put in a performance despite the lack of fans upon the return of rugby. Lam also noted the importance of focussing inwardly during this period of relative isolation.
“the crowd is fantastic, but its about getting your focus on yourself”
Excitement is the word that comes to mind when talking to Morahan and Lam. This is reflected across the league but clearly something special is building at Bristol. They have the opportunity to do something special this year but the first few weeks of Premiership Rugby will shape whether that remains possible.
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