In the second of our new series, Last Word on Rugby will be refocusing attention on the Gallagher Premiership ahead of the 2021/22 season. This time the focus is on Bristol Bears, who will be hoping to recover from their agonising play-off semi-final defeat, after finishing top of the league.
The loan duo of Max Malins and Ben Earl will be strongly missed. The versatility of Malins in particular will be a big loss, as an option at fullback as well as on the wing. As good as Piutau is, his injury record has been shaky whilst at Bristol. Should this continue, Bristol will surely miss having someone like Malins available to step in.
Key signing for Bristol Bears 2021/22
Compared to previous years, it has been a quiet off-season for the Bears. Scrum-half Tom Whiteley is the most high-profile signing and adds to an already competitive group of nines at Ashton Gate. Whiteley joins from Saracens and the 25-year-old will want to establish himself as a regular Premiership starter.
His arrival will compensate for Harry Randall’s possible international absences, as well as push on him and Andy Uren to even higher standards. Whiteley could also be an asset during international periods where his goal-kicking ability can cover Sheedy’s absences.
Most valuable players
Where to begin here. Beyond the obvious names of Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau, the ever-improving partnership of Harry Randall and Callum Sheedy will be vital. But perhaps the most important area will be up front if Bristol are able to convert their attractive play into trophies.
𝙱𝚊𝚗𝚔 𝙷𝚘𝚕𝚒𝚍𝚊𝚢 𝚐𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚍 😤 pic.twitter.com/4tHvwAzvlo
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) August 30, 2021
One player who will feel like a new signing is Harry Thacker. The hooker missed the vast majority of the 2020/21 season and will be raring to get back out on the pitch regularly. The rolling maul is a significant weapon for the Bears, that can only be improved with the mobile Thacker receiving at the back again.
Bristol Bears 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership focus
Bristol will host the league’s curtain-raiser for the third season in a row; returning Saracens will be the visitors on Friday 17th September. This presents an immediate test for the Bears’ title credentials. Whilst you’d expect them to be in the top four again, this game will give an indication of whether they can win those high-pressure clashes that lead to silverware.
It is safe to say that the 10,000+ season ticket holders at Ashton Gate won’t lack entertainment watching the Bristol Bears 2021/22 campaign. However, lessons have to be learned from the play-off semi-final collapse if they are to take the next step in their journey.
Last Word on Rugby will be assessing each Gallagher Premiership team in turn. You can read the Bath Rugby 2021/22 article here.
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