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A potential Bristol XV that could more than survive next season's Premiership

By Ian Cameron
Charles Piutau

When Bristol were promoted to the Premiership in 2016/2017, they just didn’t have the squad depth to survive among the ranks of England’s elite.

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With the arrival of BT’s lucrative deal and latterly the RFU pay for play deal, there’s more money in English war chests than ever before and resultantly an abundance of foreign talent has since swelled rosters from Sale to Bath. Players that would have moved to the Top 14 or stayed in the Pro14, were suddenly being lured to the Premiership with the promise of inflated wages.

While Bristol had the likes of Tom Varndell, Gavin Henson and Soane Tonga?uiha, they just didn’t have the firepower throughout the squad fight a season-long campaign against the Premiership’s nouveau riche.

In 2018/19, neither Bristol nor their billionaire benefactor Stephen Lansdown are not going to found wanting.

A potential starting XV based on players either playing for Bristol; committed to playing; or heavily rumoured to be signing, suggests they’ll be in a far better position to stay up.

15 Charles Piutau

Bristol have downplayed the suggestion that he will be paid £1million per year, but he’s undoubtedly their headline signing and a player that any side in the world will fear playing.

14 Luke Morahan

The Aussie speedster is unlucky not to have more than three Wallaby caps considering his pace and proven finishing ability.

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13 Matt Banahan

Banahan has yet to sign a new deal with Bath and is rumoured to be on Bristol’s radar. At 6’7 and 110kg, he continues to pose a massive offensive and defensive threat.

12 Alapati Leiua

With Will Hurrell reportedly leaving for Edinburgh, powerful Samoan centre Alapati Leiua provides heavy duty ball carrying, having made thirty appearances for Wasps and having earned 11 caps for Manu Samoa.

11 Tom Varndell

The Premiership’s all-time highest try scorer maybe advancing in years, but apparently can’t get his head around not scoring tries.

10 Ian Madigan

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The Irish man has quickly become the creative heartbeat of the side and combines both place-kicking ability and a ball-in-hand threat.

9 Andy Uren

Next year might be a bit soon for Uren but with the exit of Rhodri Williams the young academy player could feasibly stake a claim at scrumhalf.

8 Jordan Crane

An old dog of the backrow, the former England stalwart has huge experience and rugby IQ to offer the side and at 31, still has a few good years left in him.

7 Jack Lam

The bulldozing flanker who represented Samoa during the 2015 Rugby World Cup offers a nice foil to the workmanlike Crane.

6 Steven Luatua

The former All Black is an exceptional athlete and maybe one of the few Kiwi’s to exit his national side that could realistically expect to make a return. Will be an undoubted force in the next year’s Premiership.

5 Giorgi Nemsadze

Not a household name but the Georgian brings much needed grunt and experience. Irish international Dan Tuohy or homegrown talent Joe Joyce are formidable alternates in the Bristolian engine room.

4 Jonny Gray

One of the unluckiest players not to the make the British and Irish Lions, Gray has been heavily linked to the club and if he joined, would arguably represent an even bigger coup than the signatures of Piutau, Madigan or Luatua.

3 John Afoa

Currently on a reputed £500k a year deal at Gloucester, Afoa has been linked to Bristol in recent weeks. Thirty four is not all that old for a prop and it could be the retirement fund he’s been looking for.

2 Harry Thacker

Despite a breakthrough season last year, Thacker has fallen down the pecking order at Leicester, and is understood have agreed terms with Bristol. Will bring youth and heaps of ball carrying ability.

1 Soane Tonga’uiha

While 130kg Tonga’uiha will be 36-years-old by next season, he still brings power and experience in abundance, and Bristol will be banking on getting at least one more good season of him.

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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