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'He's another Antoine example, we found him playing in Ebbw Vale'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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Pat Lam has described Toby Frickerlast weekend’s Bristol match-winner against Gloucester in the Gallagher Premiership – as another lower league gamble that has paid off handsomely for the Bears. Frenchman Frisch was plucked from the depth of Pro D2 at Rouen and his 2021/22 campaign in England has resulted in Munster taking him the midfielder to Ireland on a three-year deal. 

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Bristol similarly picked up Fricker from off the beaten track some years ago, finding him playing club rugby in Wales and deciding to take a punt on an unheralded talent who has since proven his worth to the Bears.

It was September 2019 when Bristol gave Fricker a Premiership Cup debut against Harlequins and he has since gone on to make a total of 25 appearances, scoring eight tries in the process – including the two that ambushed Gloucester down the finishing straight last weekend at Ashton Gate. 

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That Premiership performance from the recently fit-again 26-year-old – his first league outing in four months – was a sharp reminder that Bristol have plenty of talent in their squad outside of the star names such as Charles Piutau and Kyle Sinckler, far lesser-known talents who can be dependent on to provide a spark in a time of need. 

“He’s another example like Antoine Frisch,” suggested Lam when asked by RugbyPass for his thoughts on how Fricker stepped out of the shadows last weekend to provide a much-needed win for a Bristol team that has generally failed to fire in this season’s Premiership. 

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“We found him playing club rugby in Ebbw Vale in Wales. He is English and he was at Bristol Uni and was travelling to Ebbw Vale and playing club rugby with his mates. There was a friend that I had that gave me a heads up about him. He told me about him, sent me some footage so I had a look, brought him in for a conversation and I loved talking to him. 

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“He is an intelligent guy. Bristol Uni, it’s not easy to get in there. I really enjoyed the chat but he had dreams. Dreams, hungry, just wanted a chance and he has worked away. It’s very similar to Antoine, maybe not as talented as a lot of other players but attitude, hunger, desire – that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have talent, he does – but that is what comes through, a real passion to be better.

“It’s a real credit to the rehab team with his (chest) injury. He was flying at that time (when he picked it up in December against Leicester)), he was starting every week and was going really well. Toby is like a forward playing in the backs. He is big, he is strong, he is aggressive, he is a tough kid and he loves running hard. 

“The thing with Toby is he does all the little basics really well, simple things, catches the high balls, runs hard, makes tackles and he goes and goes. He has got some really good qualities. I was pleased. I was pleased for him and was pleased for the rehab team that they got him back and he just picked up where he left off.”

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