Bristol Bears’ upwards trajectory over the past two years looks set to continue going forward, as they have already been the busiest team in the Gallagher Premiership ahead of next season. Their signings are not simply about adding depth to the squad, they are about adding world-class talent for head coach Pat Lam to work with. 

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A ninth place finish in the league last season has been improved upon this campaign, with the Bears sitting in third place ahead of the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bristol can still hope for a successful end to the season if any rugby is to be played, but they are equipping themselves ahead of next September.

So this is what their starting XV could look like next season: 

1 Yann Thomas 

Lam has options next season in the front row, and Yann Thomas and Jake Woolmore are two who will battle it out at loosehead. 

2 Harry Thacker

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The former Leicester Tigers hooker Harry Thacker has been one of Bristol’s most consistent performers since arriving at Ashton Gate in 2018. Highly effective in the loose, the 26-year-old will be the custodian of the No.2 shirt next season as he strives for international honours. 

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3 Kyle Sinckler

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One of the landmark signings ahead of next season, Kyle Sinckler will arrive in the West Country from Harlequins with the reputation of being one of the very best tightheads in the game currently. The England, and British and Irish Lions prop will not only bring brute force to a promising front row, but has a distributing game that very few can rival in his position. 

4 Dave Attwood

The former Gloucester, Bath and Toulon lock Dave Attwood always provides plenty of grit and firepower in the tight, and the 24-cap England international’s venom will be fundamental with so many exciting ball carriers in the squad.  

5 Chris Vui

The big Samoan Chris Vui will be pivotal alongside Attwood in the engine room for Bristol next campaign. Able to play in the back row, Lam will hope his work around the field will help build some supremacy up front.  

6 Steven Luatua

The former All Blacks loose forward Stephen Luatua is at the heart of everything good the Bears do under Lam. The captain seldom misses a game and very rarely has a bad performance, and will be part of a lethal ball-carrying back row next season. 

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7 Ben Earl

Arriving on a season-long loan from the relegated Saracens next term, the recently capped international Ben Earl is one of England’s emerging talents. With scintillating pace and explosive power, he has been one of Saracens’ most potent runners over the past year, and has filled the void left by Billy Vunipola at No.8. 

8 Nathan Hughes

The revitalised Nathan Hughes has been enjoying a wonderful season at Ashton Gate, and his move from Wasps last summer has paid off. Looking fitter and quicker than ever, still with no drop in power, the 20-cap England international will be looking to reclaim a place in Eddie Jones’ squad next season. 

9 Harry Randall

The 22-year-old Harry Randall is one that is on the radar of Jones with England and is only improving in his second season with the Bears. The tempo the former England under-20 international plays with will be crucial next season in unleashing the outside backs. 

10 Callum Sheedy

The Bears’ swashbuckling flyhalf Callum Sheedy has made the shirt his own this season, and has pulled the strings expertly. At only 24 years of age, his halfback partnership with Randall will continue to grow next season and onwards. 

Able to play for either England, Wales or Ireland, next season may be the one in which Sheedy makes his Test bow. 

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11 Charles Piutau

The impact of signing Semi Radradra would have been diminished slightly had Charles Piutau not signed a new two-year deal in December. Now Bristol will probably have the two most dangerous outside backs in the league. 

Capable of playing across the back three, the most important thing for Bristol is that they get the ball in Piutau’s or Radradra’s hands as much as possible. 

12 Sam Bedlow

Having emerged at the back end of last season, 24-year-old Sam Bedlow has kicked on this season and will be part of this promising Bristol midfield over the coming years. 

13 Semi Radradra

Arguably the most devastating ball carrier on the planet in the outside channels, Radradra is the flagship signing in the Premiership ahead of next season, as he arrives from Bordeaux-Begles. 

The Fijian can cover outside centre or the wings but will be the player to watch in 2020/21 and could be the signing that makes the Bears a serious force across Europe. 

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Should Radradra be deployed on the wing next season, Piers O’Conor has proven this year to be an excellent option in the No.13 shirt as well. 

14 Luke Morahan 

With Alapati Leiua and Henry Purdy in the ranks, Lam has plenty of options with his wingers but the three-cap Wallaby Luke Morahan deserves to keep hold of his starting berth ahead of next season. However, players will need to remain at the top of their game to remain in the starting XV. 

15 Max Malins 

Another member of the cohort of Saracens players moving on loan for a season, Max Malins could provide some creativity and guile from fullback to match the undoubted class of this back line. 

An operator in a No.15 shirt or at flyhalf, an extra ball player could prove to be invaluable for the Bears with so many running options in the forwards and backs.  

Watch: Big Jim Hamilton’s hilarious response to riddle

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