Hooker Lawrence is keen to take his chance to impress Middleton
RHYS Lawrence has watched most of Bristol's Championship play-off campaign from the stands or his sofa – so he is desperate to make the most of his opportunity on the field tomorrow.
The hooker has done very little wrong in his time at Bristol, but has been unable to find a way past Ross Johnston and Jason Harris-Wright during the play-offs.
Lawrence's fellow Welshman Johnston has started four of Bristol's five Pool A matches so far, with Irishman Harris-Wright starting the other.
But a head injury to Johnston is likely to offer Lawrence his first action of the play-offs when Doncaster visit the Memorial Stadium tomorrow – and, after waiting patiently, the 23-year-old is eager to take his chance to impress head coach Liam Middleton, pictured.
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"I'm a rugby player because I want to play in the big games – that's why I came here," said the former Scarlets man, who is set to start on the bench tomorrow.
"Obviously it's frustrating, but I'm chomping at the bit to get my opportunity – and if it comes along and I'm called upon to go out there, I know I can do a job.
"I'm still training as hard as I would if I was starting in that XV, so in that way it doesn't really make a difference – I'll train as hard as I can whether I'm playing, on the bench or not involved.
"But I'm chomping at the bit to play and I've been working on my weaknesses and feel pretty good in terms of my strength and my speed. I've tried to turn a negative into a positive and work on my throwing-in and my tackling, so I'm not too annoyed, but obviously I'm dying to get out there and play.
"Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity this weekend – and, if I do, I'll try to grab it with both hands. It's the last game of the pool stage and I want to make Liam's decision as difficult as possible. I want to give him a headache over who he's going to pick for that hooker slot in the semi-final."
Bristol secured their place in the Championship semi-finals – in which they will face Cornish Pirates or Bedford – with a 26-20 victory at London Welsh last weekend.
And, although they were 65-3 victors over tomorrow's opponents, Doncaster, at Castle Park last month, Lawrence said that the battle for semi-final places has ensured Bristol's intensity has not dropped this week.
"Doncaster will want to come and throw it about and spoil our party, so we're under no illusions about them – we'll be treating this game as seriously as we were last week's," said Lawrence.
"The training intensity is still there, if not higher, because we want to keep building and building as we roll into the semi-finals. We're keeping our feet on the ground, we don't want any more hiccups and we've got the experience now in this team.
"We're happy to be in the semis but we're not looking past Doncaster just yet. We want to keep our momentum going and they're going to want to get one back on us for what happened at their place at the start of the play-offs.
"As a team ambition, we want to finish top of the pool, but there are personal ambitions, too, and I want to be playing in those big games coming up.
"Every player wants to help his team progress in the competition, so there will be plenty of boys looking to grab their opportunity this weekend – and I think that will make for an exciting game against Doncaster."