Championship is tough life now says Reihana
BRISTOL backs coach Bruce Reihana reckons Championship rugby is a far tougher proposition now than when he played in England’s second tier for Northampton.
Reihana was part of the Saints team relegated in 2007 but bounced back at the first attempt, running through the card to win all 30 league matches in a 2007-8 campaign in which Chris Ashton notched a staggering 39 tries and Reihana contributed 28.
However, having seen his Bristol side pushed close by Hartpury and Cornish Pirates in their opening games this season, Reihana told The Rugby
Paper: “Teams in the Championship are a lot more rounded now and they have a lot more strength and power.
“That means they can take you when you’re not on your game and everything’s stepped up a level, so it shows we need to be at our best week-in, week-out.
“I’ve been in this league before so I know that for every team that plays us it’s a Test match.
“It’s all on the line for them and they want to take you down, so for us now it’s about working hard to eliminate mistakes and grow stronger week-byweek.”
Title favourites Bristol take on Richmond today in a game they should win, but Reihana vividly remembers Northampton nearly losing their proud unbeaten record to lowly Newbury, who now ply their trade at Level 5 in the South West Premier.
Reihana recalls: “Newbury came to Franklin’s Gardens, really got stuck in and it was very scary.
“We ended up scraping past them 24-23 and I’ve told our guys here about that because on any given day you just never know what is going to happen.
“No matter what the opposition it’s all down to how you perform on the day, but we’ve been preparing hard for Richmond as we continue to mould a new group of players together, I’m confident you’ll see weekly improvement.”
As a former All Blacks full-back, Reihana came under the tutelage of New Zealand coaching guru Wayne Smith during his playing days – and it is Smith’s influence that burns brightest as the 41year-old looks to develop his own coaching career.
Reihana explained: “Wayne had a huge impact on me. He was a very hard worker but what I also found was he coached the individual before he coached the collective.
“Before you become a team you’re a bunch of individuals, but if you do the best you can by coaching the individual to be the best he can be at his particular roles, then effectively you’ll end up becoming a much stronger all-round team.
“It’s certainly served the teams Wayne’s been involved in very well, like Northampton, the Chiefs and New Zealand, who won two World Cups with him involved, so I’m looking forward to what’s coming with Bristol in the future.”
Reihana added: “It’s really exciting to have a new squad and coaching staff and I’m a very positive and energised person anyway.
“That fits in with what we’re trying to mould here in one of the best high performance set-ups I’ve seen.
“I loved my time in England with Saints, so after being in France with Bordeaux for a few years, it was an easy decision to come back and help Bristol become a force.
“I always loved playing at Bristol and enjoyed the passion of the fans.”
Force to be reckoned with: Saints flyer Bruce Reihana hands off a young Jonny May in 2010
Influence: Wayne Smith