Liam Middleton: Mitch Eadie has really grabbed Bristol Rugby opportunity
LIAM Middleton has further endorsed the burgeoning reputation of Mitch Eadie, by labelling the 20-year-old No 8 "a model Bristol player".
Eadie has quickly established himself as an important cog in the Bristol machine since he took over from Marco Mama when the back-row forward suffered a head injury on the opening weekend of the season.
The versatile forward, who has worn the international shirt of Scotland but is very much Bristolian and a product of the club's academy, has impressed in Championship wins against Doncaster and Cornish Pirates.
And head coach Middleton believes Eadie, the son of former Bristol Rovers goalkeeper Jim Eadie, is on course for a successful career in professional rugby.
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"There is a lot of rugby to be played this season and a lot of chances for players to come into form and force themselves into a starting position," said Middleton, whose team travel to Leeds on Sunday.
"I think Mitch Eadie has been one of those guys. He's taken the shirt, ran with it and done well. When I signed him a couple of years ago, I thought he had all the raw materials.
"Last year, he played in the Cornish Pirates away game and I saw enough glimpses to think 'this guy has got something, he's got a big future at Bristol'.
"He had a good pre-season and, all of a sudden, he has burst onto the scene – and I thought he was really good against Pirates last weekend.
"He's played lock for Scotland Under-20s, he's played six and he's played seven – but, personally, I think he's a No 8.
"His ball control is very good at the base of the scrum and his general handling and link-play are very good, plus he's got the pace, the size and the line-out ability. For me, he's got everything a modern No 8 should have."
With Bristol missing a host of players at the start of the season – and back-row signing Alafoti Faosiliva yet to arrive in the country – Middleton urged the rest of his players to step up and take their chances.
And he has been mightily impressed with the response he has received from Eadie at the back of the scrum.
"I know it's a cliché, but he's grabbed his opportunity – he's grabbed it and said 'I'll show you what I can do'," said Middleton. "I thought his performance against Pirates was mature and showed quality.
"He's got a lot of tidying up to do around little bits of things, but you only get that from playing a lot of rugby and getting a lot of feedback from the coaches, which he is going to get.
"But I'm full of praise for him – and he's a tough kid, too, and I want people at Bristol who are like that. For me, he fits our values 100 per cent. He is a model Bristol player for me."
Bristol beat Pirates 29-17 last weekend, as they followed up their 18-9 win at Doncaster with another four-point haul.
Middleton is happy with how his team is progressing at this early stage of the campaign.
"It's nice to back wins up, because you do feel that you're starting to get somewhere," he said.
"Looking outside the wins, I thought aspects of our performance were really good. We're seeing a consistent progression with how we're playing – and that's the most important thing for me.
"If we can do that, the score takes care of itself and the wins take care of themselves. It's about a driven progression of, each week, trying to chip away at a part of our game and trying to build a big picture with it."