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Why Bristol gave rookie back-rower Fitz Harding his four-year deal

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Bristol boss Pat Lam has saluted the efforts of Fitz Harding, the rookie 22-year-old back-rower who managed to catch the eye in a positive light last weekend despite the Bears getting hammered 52-24 at Harlequins. The youngster was due to play at blindside in what was his first appearance of the 2021/22 campaign.

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However, skipper Steven Luatua pulled up lame in the warm-up at The Stoop and it resulted in Harding shifting to No8 where he played impressively enough, carrying Bristol possession on 16 occasions for good yardage despite the nature of the heavy defeat and having the on-fire Alex Dombrandt as his direct opponent.

In total it was just Harding’s fourth-ever start in eleven Premiership appearances, but he will now keep hold of the No8 jersey for this Saturday’s trip to Newcastle where Bristol hope to sign off with a much-needed win before their bye-week in the tournament.

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Louis Rees-Zammit as you have never seen him before
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Louis Rees-Zammit as you have never seen him before

“He did really well, really pleased,” enthused Lam, someone who knows more than a thing or two about No8 play from his own playing days. “He reminded me of when we first arrived at the club (in 2017), players were just hungry for opportunity.

“He has been phenomenal since he has come in. He gets on really well with everybody, there is a lot of respect. He goes hard at training and he is learning the game. He is only 22. Only a couple of years ago he was playing fourths at Durham University but he has got his degree and he is definitely a learner and a real student of the game. He is coming along nicely.

“That is why we gave him a four-year deal halfway through last season when he came in. He came in on a trial to see how he goes and he has made every pedestal so far. He has a lot more development to go obviously, but we are excited for him… I gave him a glowing reference last week. He was superb. It wasn’t all perfect… but he has a big future without putting too much pressure on him.

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“He is a great kid in the environment and he is coming on nicely. He has got some great mentors for that No8 slot in the back row with the guys that are playing, and certainly (assistant coaches) Jordan Crane and John Muldoon do a lot of work with him as well so it’s great.”

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