It's great news to have Rennie back in action, says Bristol Rugby coach Liam Middleton
BRISTOL are finally able to hand Bryan Rennie a competitive debut this weekend, while Roy Winters and Mike Tagicakibau will also return to boost Liam Middleton's under-fire squad at Rotherham.
Bristol have lost three of their five Championship matches this season, including their last two games, away at Leeds and home to Moseley.
That has left them 14 points behind leaders Newcastle and five adrift of fourth-place Nottingham – and their next assignment is a trip to a venue where they were beaten 44-6 a year ago. But head coach Middleton sees no reason not to be confident going into the trip to Clifton Lane, as he prepares to unleash former Exeter centre Rennie for the first time in a competitive match.
The 27-year-old fractured his shoulder in the pre-season defeat against Munster and has missed the opening five matches of the Championship campaign.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
But he is back this weekend – and Middleton said: "Bryan will be involved, which is great news, and we're going to enter a period in the next three weeks or so where we'll have a few players coming back.
"We're probably looking at about 13 unavailable players at the moment – and that's a lot. But I think we'll see players coming back within the next three to four weeks – Jason Hobson, Jack Tovey, Adrian Jarvis, George Watkins and Ross Johnston, for example.
"Those are players who know our system, have played in the Championship for a while and know how difficult it is. That doesn't take away from the group who are playing now, but that bit of experience makes a difference.
"Looking at Bryan and the way he has trained this week, there's a difference in maturity there. I feel confident with the guys we've got going there this weekend – Bryan will be a big boost for us, as will Mike Tagicakibau and Roy Winters coming back.
"I think we've got enough there to win the game, and I don't mind if we win by one point. At Rotherham, the score margin is irrelevant, it's just about winning."
Middleton has welcomed Argentina prop Gaston Cortes to the club this week and he will be joined by Samoa back-rower Alafoti Faosiliva next week.
But the head coach is still contending with a significant injury list, a problem he has been unwilling to highlight for much of the season.
"It has had an impact and we can't get away from that," said Middleton. "As a coach, you have what you have and you do the best with that. Actually, I don't think we've done too badly with what we've had. We still had a big injury list against Pirates and came away with a good score, but, in any sporting environment, 13 first-choice players is a lot.
"Last year when we lost Iain Grieve and Jason Hobson in one match, it was a big blow because we'd lost two key players. We're talking about 13 now, and Faosiliva to arrive next week, which will be a big boost."
One area where Bristol have had nothing but bad luck with injuries is hooker, with Rhys Lawrence (broken nose) joining Johnston (knee) on the sidelines.
"Rhys has broken his nose, so he won't be available this weekend," said Middleton. "Tom Channon will start and we've got Will Tanner (pictured) on loan from Bath, which is good news for us.
"It's a big challenge for Tom, but you look at his physical condition and he's a big hooker, 110kg, which is probably as much, if not more, than most international hookers. He's in good nick with it and he's throwing really well.
"It will be a big experience for him but the Rotherham game is quite well suited to him – it will be a physical affair and I'm confident in what he can do."