We have the squad to cope, says Bristol Rugby's Fijian star
MIKE Tagicakibau has welcomed the imminent return of Jack Tovey and George Watkins to the Bristol ranks – but is confident those players currently available can turn the club's fortunes around.
Bristol, who have stuttered in the Championship so far, have been without up to 15 players through injury and unavailability at times this season.
A host of key players are on the brink of returning to action, with Watkins one week away from overcoming an ankle injury and Tovey two weeks away from his return from a back problem. In addition to Tagicakibau's fellow backs, hookers Ross Johnston and Rhys Lawrence are close to returning from knee and nose injuries, respectively, while fly-half Adrian Jarvis could return from a virus in three weeks.
Bristol will also be able to call upon overseas recruits, prop Gaston Cortes and back-rower Alafoti Faosiliva, in the near future.
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"To know that guys such as George and Jack are close to coming back will boost everyone's confidence and put pressure on those players, like myself, who are currently in the jerseys," said Tagicakibau.
"Those two guys are coming back, and there are other players too, and they will all push every individual to perform week in, week out. It's a definitely a bonus to have those guys coming back.
"We have Fautua Otto coming back later on this season as well, and he will be a massive boost to the squad.
"But, overall, I think the camp is pretty confident we can turn things around with the players we have available at the moment.
"We haven't become a bad team in the past couple of weeks, but we know there are some areas we really need to work on, including our execution when it comes to taking our opportunities.
"If we can put a few things like that right, then hopefully we can start reaping the rewards."
Tagicakibau was Bristol's stand-out performer in their 23-16 defeat at Rotherham – and has impressed on the wing this season. But the 27-year-old, who has five caps for Fiji as a winger, believes his long-term future may lie closer to the action at outside centre.
"I am pretty comfortable out on the wing, but I would like to eventually have a go at 13," he said.
"I had a couple of games there in pre-season and I am still learning about the position, because there is another skill-set I need to develop to make the move. But hopefully I can do it at some stage."
Bristol head to Cardiff in the British & Irish Cup this weekend – and Tagicakibau is relishing the chance to figure in the Anglo-Welsh tussle.
"We want to improve in every game, and this weekend is another opportunity for us to go out there and earn the right to play in the Bristol jersey," he said. "We need to put ourselves on the line for each other and show some pride. We know Cardiff are a big club and a strong club with good players, but you play the game of rugby for the challenge of competing against good players.
"As a professional sportsman, you should want to go and test yourself and measure yourself against teams like Cardiff on their own pitch."
In addition to setting potential return dates for Watkins, Tovey, Johnston, Lawrence and Jarvis, Bristol expect back-rower Marco Mama to return from an ankle problem in four weeks.
Prop Jason Hobson is on course to play again after a shoulder injury in five weeks, while full-back Jon Goodridge's neck injury is "under investigation".