Pat Lam has insisted there is no great secret other than consistent performance behind the career longevity currently being enjoyed at Bristol by John Afoa and Dave Attwood, the 30-something duo whose respective days with the All Blacks and England are behind them. 


Prop Afoa, the 2011 World Cup winner, will turn 38 next October while ex-England lock Attwood celebrated his 34th birthday the other week just days after signing his contract extension. There is generally a lot of chatter about how players in their mid-to-late-30s manage to extend their careers but Bristol boss Lam explained there was no behind the scenes alchemy going on at Bristol to keep Afoa and Attwood at the top of the game.    

“No,” he replied when asked if there was something particular being done at the Bears to keep these veteran players firing. “All I do is I know is my players and their performance and this (extension) is related to performance and they add value. 

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Kurtley Beale guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson

“Someone who adds value and they are here, I have always said retention is far more important than recruitment. They are both important but when you retaining people that means they are performing, that means they are adding value on and off the field and more importantly it is a two-way thing. 

“We want to keep John Afoa and Dave Attwood and if we had a poor programme in the way we managed them, if we had a poor culture and we play an ugly style of rugby that they don’t like, they would be gone. Any player would leave.

“Why would you stay and sign up for something that I don’t enjoy, I don’t like and I don’t like being part of? So it is a two-way thing. Why would I sign someone who is not performing and adds no value? To me, it is common sense. That is coaching. That is what life is about. You want people that add value to your business, that add value to your culture. It’s that simple.


“I’m just trying to give you the exact equation of how it works and how I work, whether it is staff or players – (it’s about) if you add value and you buy into the vision. I have reflected on it myself: I would never stay somewhere that I don’t believe is going in the right direction or I don’t enjoy. 

“Once you get to a point where people recognise ‘I love coming here’, that is the eureka moment, that is when you get the best out of someone. It is in my coaching philosophy and it why I do things, so it is my responsibility to ensure that we have that place where people are respected, valued and appreciated and then they can perform in that environment and recruitment and retention becomes a lot easier.”

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