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Bristol's big hope for Radradra 'because of the way he is built'

By Chris Jones

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Semi Radradra may be unavailable until 2022 but Pat Lam has no qualms about setting his Bristol Bears the daunting target of taking the club to the Gallagher Premiership final this season and wants them to embrace the pressure rather than be cowed by the challenge. The coach has the ability to make even the most difficult assignment appear nothing more than an exercise in positive thinking.

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Having overcome a stuttering start thanks to a derby win over Bath last Friday, he now takes his players to Harlequins this Friday night for a match that will bring back nightmares for everyone associated with the team. In last season’s play-off semi-final, Bristol threw away a 28-0 lead to end up 31-31 with Quins at full time. By the end of extra time, Bristol were having to deal with a 43-36 loss to the eventual champions.

The head coach is confident that loss has been exorcised and believes his prediction of Bristol making the play-off final this season can be achieved even without the injured Radradra. The Fijian centre is out for four months due to a knee injury and Bristol are scouring the world for a short-term replacement to bolster the midfield options.

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Bristol are currently in twelfth place and Lam said: “People ask the question and I am telling you the bottom line is to reach the final. When I say these things everyone is signed up to it and while that doesn’t guarantee you will win anything, it does give you a better chance than doing nothing.

“The biggest challenge when I came here was showing them the last ten years and asking what they thought about the results. Everyone said it wasn’t good enough and we had to change. I said, ‘Great’. Everyone’s expectations have changed because of what we have done, but how we got here is about setting a goal and going through the process.

“I set out a five-year plan (for the club) and have hit every target and that is the way I am. In my life, I haven’t hit every target but I have gone pretty close and that is the way I am. I am not one to wander around thinking, ‘What shall I do today?’ There has to be a purpose for living. You set all these goals but the world is not perfect and it is the journey of trying to achieve it rather than waiting to see if anything happens.

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The boys know why we are doing this. When you are talking about effort and do we really want to be in the final then it is clarity of purpose. Once you sign up for it then everyone gets behind it and imagine being in a place where some want to be in the final, some want to win it and some just are happy to win some games. That is not a great place to be. When I first arrived at Bristol I asked what the vision was for the club and got seven different answers.”

With Bristol owner Steve Lansdown backing Lam’s vision, significant strides have been made and as the final year of the five-year plan is now in motion tangible reward for all of the investment is needed. “We set our target and made this growth and the pressure is not on us. Our players signed up to it and remember 70 per cent of this squad have been with me for four seasons. I said the bus is going this way and you don’t have to get on the bus… that isn’t a problem, but it is going in this direction.”

Finding a replacement for the multi-talented Radradra is going to test Lam and the Bristol boss is hoping his Fijian superstar is able to make it back ahead of the four months recovery the injury is expected to take. “We are looking to strengthen in that area and we will be looking for a replacement for Semi for the time he is out,” added Lam.

“We lost him for good periods of last season as well and other guys stepped up and did that role. Semi always comes back earlier than expected and that is because of the way he is built and his professionalism. Hopefully, he will be back earlier. I made eight changes for Bath and it is about world-class effort, not world-class players, and what we built this team on.”

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Bristol's big hope for Radradra 'because of the way he is built'

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