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Bristol's big name signings to be given European Cup green light

By Chris Jones
Semi Radradra could feature for Bristol Bears in European competition. (Photos/Gettys Images)

European rugby officials are set to allow Semi Radradra, Jonny Gray and Aled Davies to play in key quarter-final matches in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup despite having appeared in the same competitions for other clubs this season.

The enforced ending of the Top14 league in France and the delayed conclusion to the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness Pro14 seasons has seen players move clubs in recent weeks, with new contracts coming into force on July 1.

That has created unique qualification situations and with the quarter-finals of both European competitions to be staged on the weekend of September 18, squads have been bolstered by new arrivals.

While no decision has been formally announced, RugbyPass understands Cup organisers are expecting to be lobbied by clubs like Bristol to allow Radradra to play even though he has appeared for Bordeaux in the same competition this season, while Exeter and Saracens will make the same case in the Heineken Champions Cup for Jonny Gray (Glasgow to Exeter) and Aled Davies (Scarlets to Saracens).

Kyle Sinckler would be free to play for Bristol as he played in a different competition for Harlequins.

Dean Ryan, the Dragons director of  rugby, is hoping to add Wales lock Will Rowlands and centre Joe Tomane to the club’s squad for their quarter-final with big spending Bristol Bears.

Rowlands, who made his Wales debut against France in the Six Nations, is contracted to Wasps but would be the ideal replacement for Cory Hill who has joined the Blues, while Wallaby wing Tomane, who was confirmed to be leaving Leinster last week, would add firepower to a Dragons back line already bolstered by the arrival of two other Wales internationals, Jonah Holmes, from Leicester, and Nick Tompkins on a one-year loan from Saracens.

Ryan has been attempting to bolster a squad that is still lightweight in terms of experience compared to clubs like Bristol and with the Dragons certain to be involved in an expanded Heineken Champions Cup competition next season, strength in depth is a major concern.

Typically, Ryan is up for the challenge and believes the benefits of his players taking on the cream of European rugby will outweigh the negatives.

The former England No8 admits being included in the top flight of European rugby will be tough for his squad and that is why the addition of Rowlands and Tomane would be welcome.

However, neither deal is confirmed as the Dragons prepare for tomorrow’s first Stage One training day that will see them operate in carefully controlled groups of six players due to the continuing lockdown restrictions in Wales.

He told RugbyPass: “We are talking to lots of players and we are always hopeful of recruiting good players and we are keen to talk to them. Rowlands would fall into the same category as Tomane and we are interested in players who want to come to Wales.

“Rowlands has had his first introduction to test rugby and at the moment he is contracted to Wasps and we will wait to hear if there is any change.


“Being in the Heineken Cup next season is a fantastic opportunity for us. Yes, it will hurt and there will be times when we will have to face the stark reality of some of the bigger clubs but we want the players to have that opportunity.

“It is part of their development and there will be times when our numbers in our squad will make it really challenging but what a great opportunity. We accept there may be some collateral damage as we develop.

“It will be interesting when we face Bristol because they will probably have more games going into the quarter-final than us. You have to be careful focusing on one game and it looks like we could be playing every weekend from October to February anyway.

“You have to look at development window as well, otherwise no one will improve and we are OK with the only disaster being if anyone got a set back in terms of illness. Everything I have heard is that the players who have joined squads during this period can play in European games but I haven’t seen anything official.

“Bristol have significant investment and clear strategy of where they are heading and will be one of the big clubs over the next five or ten years.”


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