Bristol Rugby's Liam Middleton Liam wants a 'history-making' win at Billesley Common
LIAM Middleton has urged his Bristol players to "make history" by winning at Moseley tomorrow – and has backed his squad to cope without the suspended Jason Hobson.
Bristol won many games at Moseley's former Reddings home but are yet to triumph at Billesley Common – and Middleton wants them to change that tomorrow.
In addition to their search for a first win at Billesley Common, Bristol were also beaten at home by Moseley in September, going down 22-21 after leading 21-5 in the final quarter of the game.
Middleton, whose team slipped out of the top four in the Championship when Leeds beat Plymouth last weekend, said: "We've never won there and the challenge for us is to change that history.
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"The challenge is partly to stay in the fight – we've got to win to do that – but also to go out and do something a bit more than win.
"We can win where no other Bristol team has won before and that's an exciting challenge for us.
"If we match the intensity with which we played against Leeds a fortnight ago, then I think we should be confident about winning."
Bristol beat Leeds 12-9 in howling wind and driving rain, a result that effectively kept them in the hunt for a play-off place.
But while Middleton is eager to accentuate the positives from that performance, he has not forgotten the late slide that allowed Moseley to win at the Memorial Stadium.
"It left a bitter taste in the mouth," he said. "We didn't perform well. I don't think they were particularly outstanding, but we didn't play well and I think that's left a bitter taste. We've got to go there and deliver."
One of the key players in Bristol's win over Leeds was tighthead prop Hobson.
He has since seen his appeal against a 12-week ban for biting rejected by the Rugby Football Union – and his suspension resumes with tomorrow's trip to the Midlands.
But Middleton believes Bristol have a ready-made replacement in 27-year-old Gaston Cortes, who has been capped four times by Argentina.
"Gaston will start on the weekend," said Middleton. "He's a raw player, he's got immense power, and we've worked quite hard with him over the last four or five months to get him up to that standard.
"Jason's a very proficient scrummager, his set-piece work is outstanding, and Gaston has got that potential.
"What we've got to do over the period is just get him up and raise his standard all the time.
"I'm very confident he's a very good replacement for us – we're pretty confident he'll shore up our set-piece pretty well."
Middleton expects Bristol to release a statement on Hobson's failed appeal once they receive a full, written judgement from the RFU.
But, in the meantime, he said they must accept the verdict and continue to win the important matches they have in front of them.
"From my perspective, it's a case of 'that's the decision, nothing's going to change it'," said Middleton.
"He misses four or five games and we've got Gaston, who has a huge amount of potential, and is someone we've just re-contracted for next season.
"We've got big challenges ahead, so let's just move on. We've given Gaston that shot at the shirt and I'm confident he'll do a very good job for us. We've got big games to win, and, while Jason was hugely influential in the Leeds win, one man doesn't make a team.
"We've got to focus on this collective group achieving something big this weekend – this group has got a chance to make history."