Liam Middleton hoping Bristol can keep Bedford try-less again
LIAM Middleton has urged his Bristol players to take confidence from the fact they did not concede a single try against Bedford last season.
The unbeaten Blues visit the Memorial Stadium on Sunday and are averaging almost seven tries a game in all competitions this season.
In the Championship alone, they have crossed 34 times in six games, and are matching league leaders Newcastle for points – averaging 42.33 a match.
But head coach Middleton has reminded his players that they twice shut Bedford out last term, winning 17-15 at Goldington Road in October and 26-6 at the Memorial Stadium in December.
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Bristol have lost their last three league games but have restored confidence by winning back-to-back matches in the British & Irish Cup. And Middleton said: "Bedford are averaging 40-odd points a game, they play their way of rugby – that's their style of playing and they will probably never change that.
"It's very dangerous and, as always, they will pose a massive challenge to us. They did last year – but we didn't concede any tries against them last year in the two encounters we had.
"But they're a quality side and we're fully respectful of the type of rugby they play.
"We're improving as a side all the time, but this time last season we held them to a no-try game – and, again in December, held them to another no-try game.
"They are the best attacking team in the competition on form, but I think we can draw some confidence from those previous performances against them."
Middleton believes he will only know after his team's home game against Jersey on November 11 whether the two-game B&I Cup block proved beneficial for Bristol.
"I think we'll probably know the outcome of whether the B&I Cup complements our league season once we've played the next three games," he said.
"Then we'll see whether that competition has given us a chance to spur on. But what it has done is allow us to build some confidence in our systems and get us back to playing some of the rugby we're good at playing."
Bristol have welcomed back a number of players from injury over the past fortnight, with Jack Tovey, George Watkins, Adrian Jarvis, Ross Johnston, Redford Pennycook and James Merriman all featuring against Ulster Ravens last weekend.
But they will be without centre Bryan Rennie (knee) for a lengthy period, while fellow centre Ben Mosses is a fresh injury doubt for this weekend's game.
"Ben Mosses is doubtful at the moment but may still pull through," said Middleton. "Apart from that and Rennie, we're in good shape. And Jack Gadd is back from injury this week, so he will probably slot into that position."
Middleton is, however, expected to resist the temptation to throw Samoa back-rower Alafoti Faosiliva straight into action this weekend.
"It's too early for him," he said. "When you come in at this point of a season, particularly for forwards where you have a lot of line-outs and things to learn, I like to give new guys an opportunity to learn all that.
"He's played a lot of good rugby – he's been at Toulon, he's played for Samoa, so he knows rugby and it won't take him long to learn. When the time is right, I think he will make an impact."