Bristol Bears leading the chase for out-of-favour backrow
When Pat Lam took the head coach position at Bristol Bears, he stated his intent to build a team with a strong English and, eventually, Bristolian core.
The signs have been promising, with Bristol recently selecting an all-English-qualified player (EQP) 23 to face Enisei-STM in the European Challenge Cup. Across the home and away legs of that tie, 45 of Bristol’s 46 selections were EQPs.
The club have already announced their first signing of the 2019/20 season, with number eight Nathan Hughes arriving from Wasps. Hughes is an England international, but he was also a teammate of fellow Bears Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua back at Auckland, with Lam also keen to create a distinct culture at the club from which the young players rising up through the ranks can learn.
RugbyPass understands that the club are also advanced talks to bring Harlequins flanker Luke Wallace to the club, with the back rower one of a number of players set to be released by Quins at the end of the season, as Head of Rugby Paul Gustard reshapes his squad in south-west London.
Wallace would add to that core of English players being put together at Ashton Gate, as well as bolstering the club’s stock of flankers, with George Smith‘s contract set to end at the conclusion of the season.
Wallace, 28, has made 168 appearances for Quins since emerging from the club’s academy almost 10 years ago, with a couple of unfortunate injuries in recent seasons hindering his progress. Should he make the move to Bristol, and RugbyPass understand that they are leading the way for his signature, then he would see himself in a competition with Jack Lam, Jake Heenan and Dan Thomas to join the duo of Hughes and Luatua in the back row.
His mobility around the pitch would seem to be a match made in heaven for Bristol, who are keen to play at tempo under Lam, and the club seem to be stocking up on ball-carriers and fleet contact area specialists to help them succeed with that style.
Watch: Eddie Jones gives a press conference after announcing his squad for the Six Nations
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