PREVIEW: Bristol Rugby vs Ulster
ONE of the recurring explanations for Bristol's underwhelming start to the season has been the extent of their injury list, with up to a entire starting XV of talent regularly sidelined at any one time.
So as the established first-team stars begin to trickle back into contention, the expectation will naturally be that results and performances will improve.
And George Watkins, one of those fit-again players, is ready to embrace the pressure that goes hand in hand with his and others' return to action.
The winger was introduced from the bench in last weekend's 23-14 British & Irish Cup win at Cardiff, having been ruled out for two months with a broken ankle.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
He is in line to make his first start of the season when Ulster Ravens – the powerhouse Irish province's second-string – visit the Memorial Stadium on Sunday.
And, with fellow frontline players such as Jack Tovey, pictured, Ross Johnston, Redford Pennycook and James Merriman also pushing to play this weekend, Watkins is excited about the challenge of living up to the rise in expectations on the Bristol team.
"That pressure kind of excites me: thinking that you can come back in and add something and make a difference," said the 22-year-old winger.
"It's a good challenge to have: to think you can come back and potentially make a difference to the team.
"I actually enjoy that pressure to get back and think, 'I'm going to bring what I have to the table, and hopefully that's going to help the team get a few more wins'.
"Even in training this week, with a few guys trickling back into the squad, you can tell it's a lot more competitive and that is good for everyone.
"It's good for the squad, because the more that competition rises, the better we're going to play. Everyone welcomes that pressure and challenge, and I think that atmosphere when we have a full squad will bring the best out of everyone."
Bristol have been anything but at their best so far this season, winning only two and losing four of six Championship games.
There were hints of an improvement in last weekend's victory in the Welsh capital – and this weekend's challenge is to claim only a second home victory of the season.
"Everyone hates losing at the Mem, and last year we had such a good record there," said Watkins, in reference to recent home defeats against Newcastle and Moseley.
"We're all disappointed to have lost two this season and we don't want to lose there again all season.
"We owe it to the crowd and last weekend the crowd were awesome over in Cardiff – 90 per cent of the people there must have been Bristol supporters.
"If we can beat Ulster, with some of the players they've got, then it will give us huge confidence and hopefully the fans will get behind us."
After being a frustrated spectator for much of the season, Watkins has paid close attention to the issues that have affected Bristol – and he is confident they are not far away from putting things right.
"Winning and losing are both habits, and we need to get that winning habit back," he said.
"We've been close in a few games so far but the habit has not been there to close games out.
"But we're slowly getting our systems right and backing those systems.
"As it showed on Saturday, we were behind for a bit but we kept with it, stayed patient and in the end it paid off for us.
"That has given us confidence going into this weekend and hopefully we can just keep building those blocks and going forward."