Gloucester head coach George Skivington insisted his plans for the season are unaffected by the removal of relegation after the Gallagher Premiership’s bottom club pushed leaders Bristol all the way in an 18-17 defeat.

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The RFU announced on Friday that there will be no relegation from the top flight at the end of the season and the league will be expanded to 13 teams for 2021-22.

The move takes into consideration the impact of Covid-19 on the game and offers a club like Gloucester a potential reprieve, with the Cherry and Whites sitting at the foot of the table as things stand.

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Santiago Carreras scored two first-half tries at Kingsholm on Friday, with Ollie Thorley adding a third and Billy Twelvetrees contributing a conversion, but it was not enough as Ioan Lloyd’s penalty five minutes from time snatched victory for Bristol.

Skivington stressed relegation had never been a consideration for him and his team, even before it was taken off the table.

“We’ve never talked about relegation, it’s just about building every week and getting young Gloucester players involved and whether there’s relegation or not hasn’t changed any of our plans,” he said.

“The pain of a late loss in a derby is difficult to take but we are heading along the road nicely.

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“Our line-out let us down big time today but we had opportunities to make it count – the last couple of passes mis-fired at crucial times.”

Gloucester chief executive Lance Bradley welcomed the decision to scrap relegation, adding: “All clubs in the Premiership have had to suffer a serious impact on their finances and to add relegation to that would be catastrophic.

“We don’t think we will finish bottom but whoever finishes there, I think it will be unfair for them to go down.

“I don’t think the decision will alter our playing plan for the season as we feel we are improving, which is backed up by the stats.

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“We haven’t had the rub of the green and have picked up a number of injuries, but things are coming together and there’s a great atmosphere within the squad.”

The Bears’ tries came from Bryan Byrne and Jake Heenan, with Lloyd adding eight points with the boot in a match in which they were hampered by a number of injuries.

“We caused a lot of hassle for ourselves but we found a way to win,” said Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam.

“We needed to stay in our structures and stay patient but we gave away two interception tries and nearly a third, so there were a lot of apologies in the dressing room.

“Obviously all the injuries were a concern as they are for all coaches. Nathan Hughes had a dead leg, but we will have to assess most of the others and will know more on Monday.”

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