Friday, 7 December 2012

Slater makes first start as Bristol look to maintain strong run

Tom Slater is set for his first competitive start of the season when Bristol return to British & Irish Cup action against Bridgend at the Brewery Field today.

Head coach Liam Middleton has named a strong line-up as Bristol – who currently sit at the top of Pool 1 – look to continue their 100 per cent record in the competition.

There are seven changes in total from the side that beat London Scottish last Friday– five of which are in the pack.

In a relatively unchanged backline, Matt Williams makes his first start since the B&I Cup victory over Cardiff in October.

Scotland international Kyle Traynor returns to a new-look front row alongside Rhys Lawrence and Gaston Cortes, while Ben Glynn and Marco Mama are also included.

Lawrence wants to see Bristol continue their unbeaten run in the Cup and seal a place in the quarter-finals as soon as possible.

Bristol have achieved three successive victories in the Championship after an embarrassing thrashing away to Nottingham.

The hooker said: "It's important that we use this cup as a platform to continue our winning ways and make winning a real habit.

"No one saw what happened at Nottingham coming. We had an off day and they had one of the best days they could ever have hoped for.

"There were painful periods in that game when they seemed to be able to score at will. But the week after here, there were no real panic stations.

"We sat down, spoke as a squad about what our goals were for the season, and talked about what we needed to do to get back on track, and I honestly feel that we've now turned the corner.

"We showed a bit of character to win at Plymouth. And against Scottish we did really well. At half-time, at 16-all ... a few weeks ago that was a game that we might have lost or scraped a win in the last five.

"Instead we blew them away and won comfortably. But what we cannot do is take our eyes off the prize. We're taking this competition as seriously as the championship, and it's a great chance for players to prove their worth and put their hands up to feature in the league."

Swansea-born Lawrence, who had a spell with the Llanelli Scarlets, has played against several members of Bridgend's squad and predicts that the Welsh side will provide a real test.

He said: "They're full of aspiring players who want to play at the top end of the regional game in Wales.

"Matt Morgan is now playing Heineken Cup for the Ospreys ... he came through the system and Tom Habberfield, the scrum-half, is another who has featured for them.

"I've played with Jamie Murphy, their full-back, who's fast and a similar kind of player to Jack Tovey, rangy and deceptively strong.

"They're definitely not to be taken lightly. There will be a real challenge up front."

Bristol away to Bridgend, today, (2.30pm): Jack Tovey; George Watkins, Luke Eves, Ben Mosses, Matt Williams; Adrian Jarvis, Tom Slater; Kyle Traynor, Rhys Lawrence, Gaston Cortes, Ben Glynn, Glen Townson, Iain Grieve (capt), Marco Mama, Alafoti Faosiliva. Replacements: Tom Channon, Mark Lilley, Wayne Thompson, George Biagi, Mitch Eadie, James Grindal, Tristan Roberts.

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