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Bristol explain their signing of Kieran Marmion after Andy Uren exit

By Liam Heagney
Kieran Marmion celebrates a 2018 Ireland try versus the All Blacks (Photo by Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images)

Pat Lam has described former Ireland international Kieran Marmion as the perfect fit to replace Andy Uren, the Bristol scrum-half who has accepted what the Bears coach described as a life-changing offer from Benetton. The recently-turned 27-year-old was the subject of criticism from some fans following the last-gasp January defeat at Saracens and 32 days on from that ordeal, he has secured early release from his existing contract to move to Italy for the 2023/24 URC season.


That unexpected exit has been quickly offset by Lam reuniting with Marmion, the title-winning scrum-half when the coach was in charge of the Connacht team that won the 2016 Pro 12 with a wonderful flourish. The half-back also won 28 Test caps with Ireland, with the most memorable of his eight caps as a starter coming in the November 2018 Dublin win over the All Blacks.

However, he fell down the pecking order after Andy Farrell succeeded Joe Schmidt and having last been capped in November 2020 versus Georgia, his impending switch to England will officially end his Test career as Ireland do not select overseas-based players.

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RugbyPass Originals: The Bear Pit
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Speaking at his Wednesday media briefing ahead of Friday’s Gallagher Premiership at home to Northampton, Lam reckoned that the now 31-year-old Marmion should be joining Bristol on his two-year deal with way more caps under his belt. “Ireland, as we see now and even back in Joe Schmidt’s day, they are blessed with some quality players and I know that because I worked five years with those guys and I knew the talent was coming through.

“Anyone who gets capped for Ireland, similar to the All Blacks the way Irish rugby is at the minute, it’s a real success story because of the competition for places. Do I believe he could have got more? Without a doubt. I thought he was good enough at that stage and he is still on top of his game there.


“It’s also good to see Caolin Blade, who was also in the academy with me, and he has come through (with Connacht and Ireland). For Kieran at this stage, at 31, (Jamison) Gibson-Park has come on, there is (Craig) Casey, they have got a lot of good nines. John Cooney, who I had as well, is still trucking on. There are so many good players but Kieran is obviously not in that picture at the moment for them.


“He was looking for a chance to change and he was a very, very big player when I was there (at Connacht). He is exactly the type of nine that I like – he is great running with ball, he is physically very strong and defensively very strong. He fits the mould perfectly for what we are looking for on and off the field, a good team man.”

With Marmion’s mother living “35 minutes down the road in Brecon”, the attraction for him joining Bristol was obvious once Lam gave the long-serving Uren his blessing to break his Bears contract and move to Italy. “The offer he got was significant and it’s life-changing for him. Treviso are looking for their number-one half-back, someone to lead and drive, which is why they put the offer in,” continued the coach.

“I said to Andy, you have been at Bristol your whole career, you are only 26 [now 27], you have over 150 games, you are competing with Harry Randall versus going to a club where it’s No1 (position). We talked through all of these things and ultimately he made the decision that it is something that he wanted to do and we felt he deserved this.

“He has only played here and is able to now go and experience his rugby in a different way. I honestly believe this is such a great experience for him and he believes it is too, and the plan is for him to come back, 29 years old, and continue and play 200-plus games for the Bears. It’s a great situation for him. We don’t make these decisions lightly to release him.”


Lam added the recent fallout Uren had to endure after the last-minute Bristol loss at Saracens was a factor.  “I was horrified by the toll after the Saracens game when fans and people started having a real go at him personally. That was a tough week for him and I was really disappointed with that.

“I saw the toll it took on him and part of that whole reason he is going now is starting afresh, learning something different, experiencing something different in a different country, different language and really growing.”


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