Bristol Rugby: Eves ready for the big challenge that lies ahead down in Cornwall
LUKE Eves is relishing the prospect of facing Cornish Pirates in Penzance this afternoon – and believes a victory at Mennaye Field would send Bristol's confidence rocketing.
Resurgent Bristol have won their last six matches in all competitions, including four in the Championship, but are without an away win against Pirates since May 2010.
But, after clawing their way back into the play-off positions, centre Eves sees a genuine opportunity for Bristol to gather more confidence from today's game.
"We're under no illusions about how tough it is down there – we haven't got a great record down at Mennaye Field," said the 23-year-old.
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"But we have been on a good run of form, albeit in the British & Irish Cup as well, and that all adds to the confidence. So we are confident and now we are just looking forward to getting down there. It's another big challenge for us, of course it is, but one we have got to face.
"We are not going to over-hype the fact it's the Pirates, but we're also not going to underestimate it. We're going into this game in good shape and if we can win, it will give us plenty of confidence at the start of a new year."
Bristol were crushed 45-24 on their last visit to Penzance in the Championship semi-final in May, with a ten-minute collapse allowing the Pirates to take charge of the tie.
Bristol rallied well back at the Memorial Stadium in the second leg, but still missed out on a place in the final on aggregate.
But if you thought that might have been a major talking-point for Bristol's players this week, you would be wrong. The subject has not even cropped up.
"It's funny, because it certainly hasn't been mentioned at all this week," said Eves.
"That said, it's only human nature that the players who played down there in that game will have it in the back of their mind.
"It still bites in the back of my mind, but that only adds to the fire when we go down there."
Pirates' sole home defeat so far this season came against Newcastle – and, as Bristol know all too well, there is little shame in losing to the runaway league leaders.
And Eves is anticipating meeting a Pirates team who will be full of belief and backed by a vociferous home support.
"What with it being New Year's Day, there will be a huge crowd there, and that is all part of the challenge for us," he said.
"Throw in the fact we are fourth in the table and they are sixth, and the history between the sides, and it's pretty obvious it's going to be a huge game for both teams.
"They are three points behind us, so it's a big opportunity for one of us to start 2013 in the play-off places.
"Pirates are always a tough side down there and they have the second best defensive record in the league, behind Newcastle, plus they beat Nottingham down there. We are going to have to be right on our game."
Bristol's players enjoyed a three-day Christmas break after beating Doncaster 26-18 in their last game nine days ago – but have been working hard ahead of their trip to Cornwall. "It was nice to have some time off with the family, which you always need, but we came back in and reviewed the Doncaster game and we were a little disappointed with our performance," said Eves.
"But we have cracked on, had a good week's training in difficult conditions, and I think all the preparation has been done for Pirates. We are ready to go now."