Fixture: Bristol Bears vs London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 3
Date: Saturday 24th September 2022
Stadium: Ashton Gate Stadium
Round 3 of Gallagher Premiership action sees Bristol Bears host London Irish at Ashton Gate, the West Country team looking to maintain their 100% league record ahead the visit of the Exiles.
Pat Lam’s Bristolian outfit were aided by the efforts of Callum Sheedy against Wasps, who chipped in with a round-high 18 points (including a try and 100% kicking percentage) to win 23-8 in Coventry last weekend.
Whilst Bears made the second-least metres (273) and defenders beaten (8) of any Premiership side in Round 2, they showed their defensive acumen with the second-most tackles (218) and most turnovers won (14).
Bears’ work behind the scenes has meant that last season’s 10th-place side are refreshed with a cast of big hitting players both new and familiar with the Gallagher Premiership, namely AJ MacGinty, Ellis Genge and Magnus Bradbury.
Irish have now bettered their haul of nine tries last year in the opening two rounds of the Premiership, and currently retain the most tries (10) and points (67) so far in the 2022/23 league despite a second-round loss to Northampton Saints.
The Exiles took a first win from Ashton Gate last February as Paddy Jackson accounted for 24 of his Club’s 49 points on the evening on Bristol, winning by a 15-point margin, with Bristol winning in Brentford earlier on in the season.
The boss- Pat Lam:
A successful playing career included stints in England as well as representing Samoa in three Rugby World Cups, Pat Lam won the inaugural Premiership title with Newcastle Falcons in 1998 and captained Northampton Saints to their first Heineken Cup two years later.
In the dugout, Lam brought with him his transformative reputation to the Sportsground in Galway with Connacht Rugby, winning their only Pro 12 title to date in 2016.
Lam’s work not only etched himself into Club folklore in Ireland, but in his time with Bristol Bears the former Samoa international brought Bears to the top flight as winners of the 2017/18 Championship.
Since then, he has guided the Club to two play-off berths as well as lifting the European Challenge Cup in the 2019/20 campaign.
One to watch- Magnus Bradbury:
One of 15 new signatures in the summer, Magnus Bradbury has hit the ground running after linking up with his new Club.
Despite being Glasgow born, it was Edinburgh Rugby who brought the 19-time capped Scottish international to the professional fore after a century of appearances, now plying his explosive talents amongst Pat Lam’s organisation after seven years with the capital side.
He was awarded the Sir Willie Purves Quaich in 2017, a gong bestowed upon the most outstanding young male Scottish player.
Two tries in two competitive appearances as a Bear, including a five-pointer in a 23-8 win over Wasps last week, means Bradbury could not have asked for a better start to life in BS3.
The 27-year-old has contributed to his new Club currently being the Gallagher Premiership side averaging the most turnovers (9) per game and accompanying Irish in the top five teams of average tackles per game (159).
Bradbury was one of four Bristol Bears (Jake Heenan, Luke Morahan, Sam Jeffries and Bradbury) in the top 10 players in Round 2 in turnovers won, with the Scottish back-row himself in the top 10 overall with three registered in company with teammate Harry Randall.
Classic Encounter- London Irish 38-21 Bristol – 4th April 2009 – Guinness Premiership:
A six-try performance from London Irish lifted them to the helm of the Guinness Premiership and conversely sent Bristol down to the second tier, finishing 38-21 at the Madejski Stadium.
A Tom Homer penalty opened the scoring, but it was Bristol who scored the game’s first try through bustling hooker Scott Linklater only for Nick Kennedy to reply soon after.
Fellow forward Steffon Armitage dotted down before the break, Kennedy making his presence count again in the second half in the corner before David Lemi’s interception cut Irish’s lead to a converted score.
Bristol’s hopes faded with some slick play from the backs saw scrum-half Paul Hodgson and winger Adam Thompstone, who bagged a fourth quarter brace, before Luke Eves’ late consolation.
Tries: Nick Kennedy (2), Steffon Armitage, Adam Thompstone (2), Paul Hodgson
Conversions: Delon Armitage
Penalties: Tom Homer (2)
Tries: Scott Linklater, David Lemi, Luke Eves
Conversions: Luke Arscott (3)
Bristol Bears Director of Rugby Pat Lam spoke of what challenge lies ahead of London Irish’s visit to Bristol this Saturday.
“We lost to London Irish at home last year and the last three games against London Irish have been bizarre games, exciting for the neutrals,” Lam commented.
“We were thirty points ahead when we were there three games before, and they came flying back and we ended up with a draw.
“We wone down there lost season but they shot back, and at home we shot out to an early lead but we got a card and they scored lots of points in a short amount of time.
“Based on those last three games, it’s a great day for our Family Day but obviously we don’t want them to score that many points, but it’s always an exciting game.”
Lam projected an acutely aware outlook of the danger Irish can cause in attack, also crediting the Club’s youth system and production line in south-west London.
“They have got some class players, if you look at their Academy they have a really good catchment area with a high quality of schools that often end up in their Academy.
“[Henry] Arundell is one example of many that they have brought through, and they have brought through many experienced foreign players with a great coaching staff headed by Declan [Kidney] and Les [Kiss].
“They have got that ability to have that purple patch and when they do, if you don’t control that well they will come back and sting you.”
Irish name side for west London derby
Declan Kidney has confirmed the squad for Sunday’s derby clash with Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership (3pm kick-off).
Will Goodrick-Clarke, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hoskins are in the front row, with Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman in the second row.
Matt Rogerson captains the side from the six jersey and is joined in the back row by Tom Pearson and Chandler Cunningham-South.
Ben White and Paddy Jackson link up to form the halfback duo, and Rory Jennings partners Benhard van Rensburg in the centres.
Michael Dykes, Lucio Cinti and James Stokes complete the line-up as the back three.
“Whenever these two clubs pitch up against one another, it always creates a good game of rugby,” said Declan Kidney, Director of Rugby.
“I know that we are expecting a good crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, and they will inevitably create a great atmosphere.
“We need to make sure that we put in a full 80-minute performance to give our supporters a reason to show their voice. Harlequins are a well-drilled side, and we know it will be a difficult challenge this weekend, but one we look forward to.”
15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South.
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.
Baxter issues Moon injury update
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter says he cannot give a timescale as to when prop Ben Moon will return to the Exeter Chiefs match-day squad.
The 33-year-old forward is currently Exeter’s longest-serving player, having made his debut in 2008 away to Sedgley Park, and is the last remaining member of their 2009-10 promotion squad.
The England international, however, has not featured for the Devon club since coming off the bench against Munster in last April’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.
Asked by the media this week about Moon, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “I wouldn’t hold out hope that he’s going to be appearing soon. It’s been a challenge for Ben for a little period of time now, it’s not just been this season.
“He’s had periods in and out with it, it’s something that’s been affecting him for a little while and because of what it is we just have to be very careful with it.”
Moon has featured in all six of Exeter’s Premiership final appearances at Twickenham – and he also played in the 2020 European Champions Cup final win over Racing 92, and Exeter’s first major final when they beat Northampton Saints to win the 2014 LV Cup.
Moon won eight England caps in the 2018-19 season, but did not make the squad for that autumn’s World Cup in Japan.
“He’s still active around the club, he’s still here, he’s in training, he’s continuing very hard with his rehab and getting everything else he can right, but we’ve just got to be really careful around that neck.
“It’s probably one of those things where it’s getting to the stage where there’s not a lot more we can do. I can’t talk for Ben about his future, but you’re not going to see him in the immediate future on the pitch.”
TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
South African talisman Rob du Preez is set to make his 100th Sharks appearance whilst Alex Groves is in line for his Gallagher Premiership debut as Alex Sanderson names his side to face Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7:45pm – Live on BT Sport)
Sanderson makes seven changes to the Sale starting line-up as his squad returns to Gallagher Premiership action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup.
In the forwards, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return to face Bath.
Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago.
Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call up to Steve Borthwick’s England squad. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number 8 shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the side lines due to an ongoing hand injury.
Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half.
The ever-present Sam James retains the thirteen shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ back line.
Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with exciting academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back.
On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Alex Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez
16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Alex Groves, 20. Rouban Birch, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Luke James, 23. Arron Reed
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