Follow all the action on the RugbyPass live blog from the Gallagher Premiership match between Bristol and London Irish at Ashton Gate.
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Toby Fricker makes his first Gallagher Premiership start for top-of-the-table Bristol. The winger is rewarded for tries in successive European Challenge Cup fixtures with selection against the Exiles, while Andy Uren returns from a head injury to start.
Charles Piutau (ankle), John Afoa (calf) and Nathan Hughes (finger) return to the starting line-up for the Ashton Gate clash.
Director of rugby Pat Lam said: “We have built some positive momentum in the Premiership and Challenge Cup, but we are ultimately judged on our performance, so Sunday is a massive game for us to continue the good work so far.
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“We know what a well-coached and good side London Irish are. They are a different beast this year because of the quality of Declan Kidney and Les Kiss. They will be a big threat and we have to be ready and prepared for a physical battle at Ashton Gate in front of another big crowd.”
Bristol are boosted by the return of Alapati Leiua to the 23-man squad following a knee injury, while Luke Hamilton could make his Premiership debut for the Bears from the replacements bench.
For London Irish, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Saia Fainga’a and Ollie Hoskins combine in the front row with Ruan Botha and Franco van der Merwe in the second. Van der Merwe captains the side from the five jersey.
The best @BristolBears team of the last decade?
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 30, 2019
Matt Rogerson and Blair Cowan start from either flanker position, as Albert Tuisue wears the No8. Ben Meehan and Stephen Myler start from scrum-half and fly-half respectively, with Terrence Hepetema and Tom Stephenson partnering in the centres.
Curtis Rona and Waisake Naholo start on the wings, as Paddy Jackson completes the line-up from full-back. Adam Coleman is named in the replacements and is set to make his first appearance for the club.
“Bristol are in good form and that shows from their position in the Gallagher Premiership,” said Declan Kidney, director of rugby. “Ashton Gate is a tricky place to go and play rugby, but we are excited to challenge ourselves and keep building on our performances.”
BRISTOL: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Siale Piutau, 11. Toby Fricker; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. John Afoa, 4. Joe Joyce, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (capt), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes. Reps: 16. Will Capon, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. Max Lahiff, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Luke Hamilton, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Alapati Leiua.
LONDON IRISH: 15 Paddy Jackson, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ben Meehan, 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 4 Ruan Botha, 5 Franco van der Merwe (capt), 6 Matt Rogerson, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Albert Tuisue. Reps: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 TJ Ioane, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tom Parton.
WATCH: Declan Kidney was among the coaches to sit down with RugbyPass at the start of the Gallagher Premiership season
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