Liam Middleton calls for Bristol Rugby's out-of-contract stars to show full commitment during Championship run-in
LIAM Middleton has called on those Bristol players who have not signed contracts for the club for next season to continue to show maximum commitment for the remainder of the current campaign.
With seven new players already signed up for the 2013-14 season, it is inevitable some members of the existing squad will have to move on in the summer.
But head coach Middleton has requested that those who are unsure about their futures continue to show complete commitment for as long as they are Bristol players.
“This is a fact of professional rugby, unfortunately, and a fact of professional sport,” said Middleton.
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“I think you ask and expect a level of professionalism and commitment from players who are not contracted to you for next season – you expect them to stick by the club and give their full commitment.
“The guys who are joining us from other clubs – Ben Skirving, for example – I wouldn’t doubt for one minute that he will play to his absolute maximum for Bath until his last game for Bath. And when he arrives at Bristol, he will do the same.
“We’ve got a couple of guys who will inevitably be leaving us but we’d expect the same level of commitment from them, because that’s what professional rugby is about.
“It is a difficult time of the season but it’s an important time of the season and I think we’ve got a strong team spirit. There is that expectation at a big club like Bristol that you finish your time strongly.”
Bristol travel to Moseley tomorrow to play their game in hand on the sides around them, after the initial fixture was postponed last month.
That has meant another week of Bristol’s players and coaches being reminded that they have never won at Moseley’s Billesley Common home – but Middleton has not avoided the issue in the build-up to tomorrow's game.
“It is there and I don’t think we’ve shied away from it – I’ve used it as a motivation, rather than a fear, for us,” he said. “We want to use it as a great challenge, because we would like to be the first Bristol side to win at Billesley Common and that’s our goal.
“Rather than looking at the history of it and saying ‘that will give us a bit of a fear, because we’ve never won there’, we’re actually looking at it and licking our lips, because this is about more than winning a game. It’s about having an opportunity to set down a marker for the club.”
Bristol’s defeat at home to Nottingham a week ago, coupled with Leeds’ 26-3 win over London Scottish, has left Middleton’s side three points off the top four with tomorrow's game in hand.
And the head coach said: “With only five games left, every win you get is absolutely critical. We’ve got to establish that top-four position and I think it’s going to happen on a week-by-week basis.
“Leeds are above us and this is our game in hand, and there’s a nine-point gap to Bedford, so that’s a bit of a cherry for us to try to pick off above us. But mainly we’ve got to look at just establishing that top-four place.”
Roy Winters returns to the starting line-up after four months out with an ankle injury, while Iain Grieve is back on the bench after missing three months with a bicep problem.
Olly Robinson, son of Bristol director of rugby Andy, starts for Moseley.
Moseley: O Thomas; S Hunt, G King, A Carter, B Robinson; G Hughes, R Glynn; E Waller, S Wilkes, B Evans, M Powell, B Lawrence, N Mason, O Robinson, B Pienaar. Reps: T Warren, M Williams, A Lockley, S Dickinson, B Pons, S Brown, B Davies.
Bristol: J Tovey; G Watkins, F Otto, L Eves, R Edwards; A Jarvis, J Grindal (capt); K Traynor, R Johnston, W Thompson, M Sambucetti, R Winters, M Mama, R Pennycook, M Eadie. Reps: R Lawrence, B Douglas, B Glynn, I Grieve, R Tipuna, T Roberts, A Short.