Bounce back Bris­tol bet­ter pre­pared this time around

Coventry Telegraph - - SPORT - By BOBBY BRIDGE Rugby Re­porter robert.bridge@reach­ Craig Hamp­son

WASPS scrum-half Craig Hamp­son be­lieves for­mer club Bris­tol pro­vide a fine ex­am­ple as to why the Pre­mier­ship should not be ring-fenced.

Hamp­son spent two sea­sons at Ash­ton Gate be­fore join­ing Wasps and will fea­ture against his for­mer club when they visit the Ri­coh Arena on Sun­day in the Pre­mier­ship Cup. The 28-year-old was part of the Bris­tol squad that missed out on pro­mo­tion in 2015 when Worces­ter claimed a 59-58 ag­gre­gate play-off vic­tory.

Bris­tol have since been pro­moted twice from the Cham­pi­onship ei­ther side of a rel­e­ga­tion in 2016/17 - but are much bet­ter placed to sur­vive this time around hav­ing re­cruited heav­ily to bring in the likes of for­mer Wasps star Charles Pi­u­tau. How­ever, con­cerns over the fi­nan­cial im­pact of clubs who fall out of the top tier of English rugby lead to calls for pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion to be scrapped. Some­thing Hamp­son is not in favour of.

“I don’t think we need to ringfence the Pre­mier­ship. I know the [Cham­pi­onship] play­offs were good for TV, but I think as a club, ob­vi­ously I was in there twice, we were ex­pected to go up. That sea­son-long thing when you dom­i­nate the league then it comes down to one game, or 10 min­utes at the end of one game, it’s pretty dif­fi­cult. Now if a team dom­i­nates the league, they’re go­ing to go up. I think that’s a good way to do it. There’s still rel­e­ga­tion and it still makes the Pre­mier­ship su­per com­pet­i­tive, even down at the bot­tom there’s big games. “It’s a huge step up. I think it’s the in­ten­sity and ev­ery week’s a big game, it doesn’t mat­ter who you’re play­ing. You can be top of the ta­ble, and you can be play­ing bot­tom of the ta­ble and it’s still a big game in the Pre­mier­ship.

“Whereas in the Cham­pi­onship you only play three or four big games ev­ery sea­son.

“That step up of, week in week out turn up and hav­ing to play big games is the big step up. Ob­vi­ously last year they had a much stronger squad than they have done in the past. I think they’ve kept on to that and then added more to that as well and I think they’ve added more play­ers to that as well. I think they’ve gone pretty well this year so far.”

Bris­tol’s re­turn to the top ta­ble of English rugby started with the eupho­ria of an open­ing-night win against Bath. But this was fol­lowed up by four de­feats in five games with Bris­tol con­ced­ing more points than any Pre­mier­ship club along the way.

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