15 for 10: Bristol Bears - an all-decade team
Obviously, Bristol spent a lot of that decade in the second tier of English rugby and inevitably the XV is skewed towards their recent stint in the Gallagher Premiership and consolidation not only as a Premiership team, but a team capable of challenging for Heineken Champions Cup and playoff qualification spots in the top half of the table.
The side’s development under Pat Lam has been remarkably impressive and a number of his charges have made the final cut. Check out the team below.
- Charles Piutau
Piutau hasn’t been at Bristol for long but his significant impact has been felt a number of times already. He would walk into all of the other Premiership sides whether at full-back or on the wing and his combination with the incoming Semi Radradra should delight Bristol fans for years to come.
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- David Lemi
A lot of Lemi’s feats for Bristol were in the Greene King IPA Championship, although that shouldn’t diminish his impressive performances. He had departed the club in 2009, although he returned in 2014 for a four-year stint and his ability to find the try line was undiminished by the passing of time.
- Jack Tovey
Piers O’Conor has a claim on this spot and may well be the man profiled in 10 years’ time, but Tovey is due plenty of recognition for his work helping Bristol get back to the Premiership. The Bristol native’s versatility was particularly useful for the club and although his role lessened upon that return to the top tier, he still holds a special place in the club’s fans’ hearts.
- Will Hurrell
A powerful ball-carrier and bundle of energy at inside centre, Hurrell has been one of the most notable players in recent years to make that Championship to Premiership step up relatively seamlessly. He was uncontainable in the Championship and he is still a major thorn in the sides of opposition defences.
- Luke Morahan
The Australian joined Bristol’s journey whilst they were still in the second tier and his try-scoring exploits have been able to be replicated in the Premiership. He was one of the form players for Bristol last season and his clinical finishing helped ensure that Bristol weren’t sucked into a relegation dogfight.
- Adrian Jarvis
There is plenty of competition here, with Matthew Morgan having impressed, Gavin Henson having spent a spell at the club and Callum Sheedy now looking to the manor born in the jersey. That said, Jarvis spent a total of six years with the club in the 2010’s and his ability to run the back line and keep the scoreboard ticking over was crucial.
- Ruki Tipuna
Harry Randall and Andy Uren have both been making strong cases of late and will battle it out into the next decade, but Tipuna’s exploits in the earlier part of the 2010’s got our vote. He was excellent as a sniping scrum-half for the club, as well as keeping the tempo high and opposition teams uncomfortable.
- Kyle Traynor
It’s a case of what could have been for Bristol here, with both Mako Vunipola and Ellis Genge getting a taste of senior rugby with the club before Saracens and Leicester Tigers swooped respectively. In terms of overall senior impact, Traynor beats them both out and was a stabilising influence during their time yo-yoing between the Premiership and Championship and then an extended spell in the latter.
- Harry Thacker
One of the more recent arrivals, Thacker has surpassed all expectations in the south-west and nips in here ahead of a number of players who have spent longer at the club, including Max Crumpton, who is due an honourable mention. The hooker’s style of play suits Lam’s gameplan perfectly and it’s a combination which should continue to impress for years to come.
- Gaston Cortes
Having gone for the high-impact recent signing over longevity at hooker, we have done the opposite at tighthead. As important as John Afoa’s contributions were last season, Cortes, like Traynor, provided the club with a source of consistency and stability over a number of years, when Bristol most needed it.
- Joe Joyce
A tough call, with Ben Glynn giving Joyce a run for his money, although we ultimately opted for the fan favourite and hometown hero. He doesn’t necessarily start week in, week out for the club following the arrival of Dave Attwood, but when he does, he never gives anything less than 100%.
- Chris Vui
Higher profile players have been signed in recent years than Vui, though arguably none who match the impact he has brought. Whether it is bolstering the set-piece, providing physicality in and around the contact area or just incredible work rate over the 80 minutes, Vui has helped make Bristol a better team.
- Steven Luatua
A mention for Iain Grieve, who was a great servant to the club, although it’s impossible to ignore the ability and presence that Luatua has brought to Bristol since his arrival. Like Vui, he has made all-round contributions to making Bristol a better team and his ability to execute his skills in tight or high-pressure situations is exemplary.
- Jack Lam
Lam, although not featuring as regularly in the Premiership, was another of those Bristol players to help lay the foundation for what the team has gone on to achieve since. He was considered quite the coup when he arrived from the Hurricanes and spent five impressive years in the south-west, so much so that he edges ahead of players such as Marco Mama and the legendary George Smith.
- Mitch Eadie
Another Bristol native, Eadie and his versatility in the back row were highly valued by the club earlier in the decade, before he opted to make the move to Northampton Saints. He was a force with the ball in hand for the club and narrowly sees off Jordan Crane and the role the veteran provided upon return to the Premiership.
Watch: New Waratahs coach Rob Penney speaks to the media
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