Grieve's impact role is a strong one – Middleton
LIAM Middleton has backed Iain Grieve to reclaim his place in the Bristol starting XV at some stage – but has no immediate plans to stop using the club captain as an impact replacement.
Grieve has appeared from the bench in Bristol's last two matches – victories over Ulster Ravens and Bedford – and also made a positive impact when being introduced as a replacement during the 29-17 win over Cornish Pirates in September.
Redford Pennycook, James Merriman and Mitch Eadie have impressed in the Bristol back row in recent weeks, while scrum-half James Grindal has taken over the captaincy – and all four are likely to retain their roles at Nottingham on Sunday
And Middleton, pictured, said: "The back row is very competitive – and we've got guys who play differently. Grievesy is a unique player in terms of the way he plays – there's not another player in our squad who plays like him.
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"He's very physical and he came off the bench against Pirates and made a huge impact on the game, he came off the bench against Ulster and made an impact, and again at the weekend.
"He doesn't want to be known as an impact player, but I can't get away from the fact he's done something positive.
"Other players who come off the bench, who are equally good in terms of ability, don't make that impact, because they play a different game."
Middleton praised the way Grieve, who is in his third season as Bristol captain, has dealt with losing his place in the starting XV – and said his mature response underlined exactly why he is the club skipper.
"The great thing about Grievesy is the way that he's handled the fact he hasn't been starting," said Middleton. "He handles it with real strength of character and maturity – and that shows that he should be the captain.
"He deals with it very positively and he is all about the team – that's what he is: he's about Bristol Rugby club and he's never once whinged or knocked on the coaches' door and asked why he's not starting.
"He's just thought, 'right, this is where and how the coach wants to use me, I'm going to give it 100 per cent'. I think that's a real testimony to the guy he is.
"And he'll start again, because he's a quality player."
Middleton will soon have Marco Mama and Alafoti Faosiliva to add to his back-row resources, with the former playing for the University of the West of England yesterday and the latter impressing in training as he learns the Bristol calls and tactics.
Prop Kyle Traynor was due back in Bristol last night after spending the early part of the week with the Scotland squad, while hooker Rhys Lawrence has been passed fit following a head injury, but is unlikely to be considered for the trip to Meadow Lane this weekend