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Pat Lam's message to Bristol fans a week after fire sale reports

By PA
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

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Pat Lam has reassured Bristol fans that the Bears will be competitive next season following a report claiming they have faced difficulties balancing the books. Bristol last week issued a statement insisting they will continue to operate under the salary cap, which has been reduced from £6.4million to £5m for the 2021/22 campaign.

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It was in response to a claim that the club were being forced to offload key players such as Bath-bound Dave Attwood due to an administrative error involving the contracts of six players. Attwood will departing Ashton Gate at the end of the season along with former England number eight Nathan Hughes, who is joining Clermont.

But Lam points to the signing of Ellis Genge, AJ MacGinty, Magnus Bradbury, James Williams and Gabriel Ibitoye, as well the retention of key players Harry Randall and Chris Vui, as evidence of the Bristol ambition for 2022/23. “Everyone knows I do the majority of my main work before January,” the director of rugby said. “That’s when Gabriel was done, James Williams was done.

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“It was done a lot earlier, we just hold announcements until the appropriate time. With the majority of our main work all done, the team and squad will be improved and be stronger. The club put the statement out to give our supporters absolute clarity. Everyone was worried about our squad, a ‘fire sale’ and stuff like that came out.

“So the message to the fans is, ‘Don’t worry, there’s no problem with the salary cap and don’t worry about the strength of the squad’. It will be improved and you’ve already seen that with Ellis Genge (signing), Harry Randall committing for four years, Chris Vui committing for four years, James and Gabriel joining. All of this was done way before. It’s business as usual.”

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Bristol have been given a lift for their Heineken Champions Cup round-of-16 double header against Sale after it emerged that Kyle Sinckler and Steven Luatua will be available for Saturday’s trip north. Sinckler has not played since England’s Six Nations campaign, during which he was hampered by concussion and back issues, while Bears captain Luatua has made a rapid recovery from a dislocated wrist.

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“Kyle has trained this week and he’s on the track. Steven will be available for selection this week,” Lam said. “Steven reads the game exceptionally well and he brings the best out of the guys around him and he drives them.

“He is calm under pressure and that is why he has been superb for the Bears. A lot of guys have learnt from him, particularly when it comes to being calm. You don’t have to be going crazy emotionally, it is about being calm under pressure and making good decisions and that is what he brings to us.”

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