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An 'alignment group' and 'ABC' analysis - how Bristol have upped the dressing room ante during recent Premiership intervals

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Pat Lam has lifted the lid on the way Bristol successfully go about their half-time business, conducting forensic dressing room reviews that recently saw them transform 5-9 and 14-10 interval scorelines into respective 27-19 and 29-17 Gallagher Premiership wins over Harlequins and Newcastle. 


The Bears, who this weekend head to reigning champions Exeter, has been very much dependant on their second-half performances in recent weeks, a situation that also stretches back to last month’s European matches versus Connacht and Clermont. 

It has been suggested that Lam must be giving his players the hairdryer treatment in order for them to respond the way they have done after recent Premiership intervals, but the Bristol coach has revealed the various improvements are down to simply running through their process and making fixes as they go.         

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Goodbye to 2020!
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Goodbye to 2020!

“The beauty is having a clear plan,” said Lam about the difference in recent weeks about how Bristol have performed in the second half compared to what they have done in the first half of Premiership games. “We have two different groups – we have a leadership group which runs the team and different personalities look after it, but we have an alignment group that is selected every week after we select the team. 

“There is probably about ten of these guys who determine the mindset for the game and they are aligning the coaches and the players if you like. They look at the last bit of the week and certainly the game and the tactics. 

“The beauty about that is when they go out to start the game we have a clear plan on what we want to do, so the half-time talk is always just referencing the plan. It’s not emotional. Like the Quins game, we knew the plan and whether that is the technical or tactical side of it or whether it is around work rate or physicality, the boys always determine the key things. 


“We maybe have five or six key things we need to deliver and we work our way through it, so half-time becomes checking off that, how that is going. The last two games, the first one we knew straight away it was work rate and that got sorted. And the one on the weekend was we were able to work out if this is not working what is it? 

“Is it discipline, guys not doing certain jobs? You look at the way that Newcastle mauled us and we have got one of the best maul defences – it’s the first time ever we have lost the maul metres battle which John Muldoon does. 

“What we knew straightaway is two or three guys were causing the issue but John was able to go through with the forwards and highlight that, it got fixed straight away. Funnily enough, I know George (Kloska) and Pete (McCabe) did a great effort stepping in, but again what I challenge some of the guys who came in they didn’t get those roles right. 

“They were fantastic on their tackles and stuff but there is a system that they have got to do and if they get the system wrong we all pay the price. So we tidied that up, made that aware and they just sorted that out. A lot of that second half when we improved, people think it is my talk but all it is is a focus to the area where we are not working to what we agreed would work. 


“That game plan is something that comes back to ABC when we do analysis. A, all our assumptions – what we believe the other team is going to do and what will work. B is we believe they could try something different, and C is confirming so all we are doing on the field is confirming what we train and what we say we are going to do and at half-time, I’m just putting a focus back on those areas if that makes sense.”




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