Bristol got the new calendar year in England going on Friday with their New Year’s Day Gallagher Premiership win over Newcastle, but the 29-17 success wasn’t the only thing that left Pat Lam bouncing forward into 2021 with a spring in his step.
The January 1 win for the Bears came despite them having to isolate all six front rowers used in their previous outing at Harlequins due to one player testing positive for Covid-19.
It was the latest twist after a challenging year which saw rugby in England suspended last March and resume with an avalanche of matches in August, and the gap between the 2019/20 season and the new 2020/21 was also short-lived between October and November.
It has left all coaches in the league with a heavy workload but Bristol boss Lam, who has been in England since leaving Connacht in 2017, wasn’t inclined to look back on 2020 as his most challenging year yet.
“It has been challenging but it’s what I love – I love the challenge,” he said with enthusiasm following a calendar year where Bristol won the European Challenge Cup and reached the semi-finals of the Premiership despite the pandemic.
“It has been six months of tests since July and no player had called a positive test. This is the first one"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 30, 2020
“That is what life is. We are who we are through these challenges we go through. It’s funny, I read a really good analogy. I always love these things in life and rugby is life – and it’s not just about the players. It’s about a grape: grapes will go off after four or five days but if you press the grapes it starts the process of making wine and wine can last 50, 60, 70, 80 years.
“And so at the moment the whole world and all of us have been pressed but if we acknowledge the process of being pressed it can bring us through. What Covid has done is it has made everyone stop, reflect, look at life, work out what is important.
“The fact is I love this game. The fact is I have had more time with my kids who are older, they have come back in (at home) and we have had more time, so there is a lot of positives that have still come out of this even though these difficulties.
“While this is challenging these are the times we grow. We grow as people. Certainly, for us, we grow as a team by all being challenged. It is challenging but you always look on the other side of it too, the positives that you can get out of it.”
"I definitely believe I wouldn't be the player I am if I hadn't been told from a young age I was too small"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 1, 2021
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