Pat Lam says that “pressure is a privilege” as his Bristol team face an intense finale in their quest for a Gallagher Premiership play-off place. Bristol, Sale Sharks, Wasps and Bath are chasing three remaining places to join Exeter in the league’s knockout phase next month.

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Lam’s men are likely to require a maximum ten-point haul from games against Leicester on Wednesday and London Irish four days later. Even that might not be enough to secure a top-four finish, but Bristol rugby director Lam is relishing what lies ahead.

We are in good condition and good nick, and we might need that with what is coming around the corner,” he said ahead of Leicester’s visit to Ashton Gate. “We need to win (against Leicester), but we probably need a bonus point as well to take it to the last game.

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“We have to do our job and do our job right. That’s all we can control. This is where we wanted to be, to play games that have a lot riding on them. A lot is going to happen over these next five days and we just hope come Sunday afternoon that we have done enough to get ourselves into a semi-final.

“Pressure is a privilege, a great thing to have. You’re constantly looking to get better, and to get better you need pressure and you need these sort of games.”

Lam has made ten changes from the side that booked a European Challenge Cup final spot by beating Bordeaux, but key performers like fly-half Callum Sheedy, prop Kyle Sinckler and skipper Steven Luatua all start, and centre Semi Radradra is on the bench.

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Champions Cup finalists Exeter host a London Irish side beaten in nine successive Premiership games on Wednesday. Chiefs rugby director Rob Baxter wants no let-up from his players despite making wholesale changes and knowing that a home play-off is guaranteed.

“We are already starting next season with three Premiership games when no international players are available,” Baxter said. “Those players (who play) will come from the group that is playing on Wednesday. The bigger picture is very important.

“We need as strong a squad overall as we can for what will be a very challenging season next season, based just on the number of clashes with international periods if nothing else. We talked before we even came back before lockdown that we could get a lot of things in our hands if we worked hard right from the start, and that’s what the lads did.

“From day one against Leicester, how we played then would very much help us further down the line. We know the semi-final is at Sandy Park, and we can plan for that. The reality is that whoever we play in the semi-final, it will be their biggest game of the season, and we have got to make sure on that day it is our biggest game of the season as well.”

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In Wednesday’s other game, a Saracens side showing 15 changes following last weekend’s Champions Cup exit meet Worcester at Sixways in what will be their penultimate game before relegation.

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