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Sell-out international matches are 'hopefully the future' for Bristol

By Chris Jones
Press Association

Bristol Bears boss Pam Lam believes the club’s sold-out clash with South Africa at Ashton Gate on Thursday offers one way of trying to recoup an expected loss of £1m caused by the demise of Wasps and Worcester and could be the start of a series of similar fixtures with international teams.


Bristol were supposed to host Wasps over the New Year celebrations and with the fixture list now having to be rearranged, maximising income opportunities is critical even with the support of billionaire owner Steve Lansdown, who also owns Bristol City FC.

Lam has revealed that Bristol initially tried to get a match with Australia to fill in their scheduled bye week when the original fixtures for a 13-team Premiership were announced. However, that proved impossible but an alternative game with South Africa A was added to the fixture list and is a 27,000 sell-out with a full house of hospitality taken as well.

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Not only is this a significant financial windfall for the club, it gives the players an opportunity to test themselves against international opposition before facing their next two challenging Premiership games with Sale and Leicester.

Lam said: “This match has shown there is an appetite for these fixtures and this is hopefully the future. We are thankful to have this game because we have lost a lot of money this year on the Worcester and Wasps games and also the Bath game being cancelled. This is a little bit of a help but it still doesn’t replace the income we have lost particularly as we are without a New Year game. We are taking a big hit there.


“When you have 12 or 13 teams in the Premiership there is no room for this kind of fixture but we knew with a bye something could be fixed. When you get down to 10 or 11 teams the beauty of it is you have 18 or 20 rounds and so you are not playing on international dates. So, you have a window to organise these fixtures and that is a positive outcome if the league is reduced.

“The international players love mid-week games and from our perspective just look at the crowd coming to the match. Our players are being given jerseys they can swap and there will be a traditional after match function with both teams able to have a meal together with some speeches.”


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Jon 2 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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