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‘In-form Gloucester a dangerous prospect’ – Lam

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Ashton Gate is set to welcome supporters back for the first time in 14 months, with 3,138 expected in BS3 – and Lam says the return of fans will provide a huge boost for his players, who sealed their play-off place with four rounds remaining by beating Bath at The Rec in round 18.

‘Exciting times’

“It’s exciting times. There is a focus on every game, so playing Gloucester heightens everything again, and the crowd coming in, albeit the beginning of a process to build the crowd back up, it’s exciting times.

“We understand it’s another derby with Gloucester and they will be dangerous. They had a great win, and they are improving every time under George (Skivington) and their new coaching regime.

“However, for us, I think the biggest focus is that every game is important, because when we took top spot in the table in round six, for us still to be there in round 19 is a huge effort, because we put an emphasis on us and on our journey, and we said the only reason we’ll get overtake is if we drop our standards.

“So, it would be a shame, with the position we are in with four games to go and an eight-point lead, to not get to the end as the team at the top, before we go into the semis.”

‘Extremely pleasing’

Lam praised his side’s mentality after they fought back from 15 points down to complete a second successive league double over Bath – and the Bears boss believes the experience will stand them in good stead come the business end of the season.

“The outcome is extremely pleasing. To get a record score down at The Rec was massive and a real testament to the work done by everybody – and the way we did it.

“We knew what we needed to do, and we knew the opportunities were there. We gifted them two soft tries, but the calmness of the guys to work their way through it and keep at it, and it’s great when guys are saying ‘keep going and we’ll get there.’

“For it turn out that way was pleasing and will hold us in good stead for what’s to come.”

Source – Bristol Bears Rugby

Premiership

Newcastle Falcons sign former Ulster forward

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Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Former Ulster back-five forward Matthew Dalton has joined Newcastle Falcons on a two-year deal.

Standing at 6 foot 6 and weighing 115kg, the ex-Ireland Under-20s international is already on Tyneside, aiming to hit the ground running for the start of pre-season.

“I wasn’t supposed to start until July 1 but I had a bit of a chat with the coaches, and we thought it would be best if I came over early,” said Dalton, the 22-year-old who has played ten times for Ulster.

“I arrived a few weeks back and have been working hard with the strength and conditioning coaches. It’s a chance to meet everyone, see the lay of the land and put in some graft ahead of the start of pre-season. It’s been great so far, and I’ve made some big gains.”

A former international pentathlete for Ireland Schools, with high jump and hurdles as his stronger events, Dalton believes the Falcons’ high-tempo game will suit his own personal attributes as he strives to make his Gallagher Premiership breakthrough.

“I like to bring some speed to the game with the way that I play,” said the former Malone RFC man who has played mainly in the second row, with a handful of appearances on the blind-side flank.

“Looking at the pitch here and the way the Falcons go about their game, I think that could be a good fit.

“Coming into a Premiership team from the Pro 14 – there are definitely a lot of differences, but also a few similarities. Newcastle have got a very fit and dynamic pack, and with the style of rugby I play I think it will marry well.

“I’ve had a bit of time off to do some growing up and self-reflecting, and this is definitely a good move for me. I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity presented to me over these next two years, and I’m just incredibly glad how it’s worked out.”

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Matty is a real talent who is blessed with great athleticism.

“He has shown his work ethic by coming over early and laying the foundations for pre-season, and I’m excited about what he can bring to our squad during his time here with us.”

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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Premiership

London Irish centurion to retire

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(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

London Irish full-back Tom Homer is retiring from the sport with immediate effect following the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.

Homer, who made 126 appearances and scored 785 points for the Exiles across two stints with the Club, has decided that it’s the right time for him to hang up his boots.

Tom had agreed a move to French side US Montalbanaise but has since decided his future is away from the rugby field.

“I suppose my love for life is now beyond the rugby field,” explained Homer.

“I’ve played rugby for 13 years now and have some brilliant memories, but it just feels like the right time to retire.

“There is something poetic about finishing at the Club where it all started. I’m looking forward to the next adventure.”

Looking back at his career, Homer chose not to reflect a particular match, try or conversion, but more so on those fellow players he has shared the pitch with.

“My first year at London Irish and getting to play in the Premiership Final was a massive highlight, but more than anything, I will remember the people that I got to share those types of experiences with,” he said.

“Thank you to all the people that have supported me during my career, you stuck with me through thick and thin. I really appreciate it.”

Declan Kidney, when commenting on Tom’s decision said: “We wish nothing but the best to Tom and his family in the future.

“He has had a fantastic career and should be very proud of everything that he has achieved. I know he will be successful in whatever path he chooses to do next, and I would like to thank him for his generosity, work ethic and friendship during his time at London Irish.”

Thank you for everything Tom. Good luck in your future – you will always be welcome at Hazelwood.

Source – London Irish Rugby

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Premiership

Wasps team to face Leicester Tigers as fans return to Ricoh Arena on Saturday

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Lee Blackett has named his Wasps side to host Leicester Tigers, in front of fans at Ricoh Arena, in the final round of the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday.

There are five changes to the starting line-up that won against London Irish last time out.

Malakai Fekitoa returns from injury to partner Michael Le Bourgeois in the centres.  

Josh Bassett will make his 150th Wasps appearance on Saturday, as he forms the back three with Marcus Watson and Rob Miller, who comes in for the injured Charlie Atkinson at full-back.

Jacob Umaga will also make his 50th Wasps appearance on Saturday, as he once again forms the half-back partnership with Dan Robson.  

The front row trio of Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Kieran Brookes line up for their final appearances in Wasps colours.

Will Rowlands also makes his final outing in Black and Gold in the second row with James Gaskell.

The only other change to the pack sees Sione Vailanu come in for the injured Thomas Young. Vailanu starts at number eight in his final Wasps game, meaning man-of-the-match from last week Tom Willis moves to blindside flanker and captain Brad Shields shifts to seven.

Amongst the replacements there is a welcome return to action for Alfie Barbeary. He is joined on the bench by Gabriel Oghre, Ben Harris, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Tim Cardall, Jimmy Gopperth, Juan de Jongh and Ben Vellacott, with de Jongh and Vellacott in line to play their last games for the Club.

Wasps team to face Leicester Tigers at Ricoh Arena on Saturday in Gallagher Premiership Round 22 (kick-off 3:00pm)

Wasps (First-team appearances)

15 Rob Miller (125)

14 Marcus Watson (51)

13 Malakai Fekitoa (36)

12 Michael Le Bourgeois (58)

11 Josh Bassett (149)

10 Jacob Umaga (49)

9 Dan Robson (136)

1 Simon McIntyre (183)

2 Tommy Taylor (90)

3 Kieran Brookes (58)

4 Will Rowlands (112)

5 James Gaskell (140)

6 Tom Willis (40)

7 Brad Shields (52) (c)

8 Sione Vailanu (31)

Replacements

16 Gabriel Oghre (45)

17 Ben Harris (79)

18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen (44)

19 Tim Cardall (29)

20 Alfie Barbeary (14)

21 Ben Vellacott (19)

22 Jimmy Gopperth (127)

23 Juan de Jongh (66)

Unavailable due to injury: Charlie Atkinson (Concussion), Lasha Jaiani (Pectoral), Zach Kibirige (Ankle), Joe Launchbury (ACL), Ryan Mills (Foot), Matteo Minozzi (Eye), Paolo Odogwu (ACL), Will Simonds (Groin), Sam Spink (Groin), Theo Vukasinovic (Achilles), Tom West (LCL/Hamstring), Jack Willis (PCL/MCL), Thomas Young (Hamstring).

Source – Wasps Rugby

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