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Pat Lam says his Bristol team will relish the challenge of Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership clash against fellow play-off candidates Northampton.
Bristol head to Franklin’s Gardens knowing that victory is likely to put them in fourth spot following Gloucester’s home defeat at the hands of leaders Exeter on Friday. Saints, though, are just five points behind Exeter in second, which underlines the size of Bristol’s task.
“Going to Northampton is always a massive challenge,” Bristol rugby director Lam told the club’s official website. “But it’s a game we are excited by because you are playing a team that loves to play rugby and it could potentially be a really good game for the neutral and for everybody.
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“Putting the work in and following on from what we did against Gloucester (last month), it puts us in good shape to go there. We are under no illusion as to how tough that will be, but we’re excited by it.
“We’ve had a really beneficial two weeks of recovery and hard work on the training field to ensure we are fit and firing for a big test against a well-coached side.
A BIG occasion at the Gardens! ? pic.twitter.com/2WpCVkysXg
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) February 14, 2020
“Credit to the conditioning and medical team, there is excellent availability in the squad and we are relishing this next block of Premiership fixtures, starting with Northampton.”
Bristol are boosted by the return of full-back Charles Piutau, who has not played since suffering a knee ligament injury six weeks ago. And that is Bristol’s only change of personnel from the side who beat Gloucester, with Luke Morahan reverting to wing duties.
Welcome back @alexmitchell97 ??
Your Saints to play Bristol…
— Northampton Saints ? (@SaintsRugby) February 14, 2020
Northampton will be without fly-half talisman Dan Biggar as he continues his recovery from a head injury. The Wales star went off during last Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations defeat against Ireland in Dublin, although he is understood to be on course for next week’s Cardiff appointment with France.
Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson will line up in midfield alongside Matt Proctor, who starts his first match since December after recovering from a concussion, while fellow backs Tom Collins and Harry Mallinder also feature.
WATCH: The behind the scenes RugbyPass documentary on Bristol Bears
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