The Rugby Paper - - News - By NEALE HAR­VEY

Bris­tol bet­ter placed now than un­der Andy Robin­son

BRIS­TOL No.8 Jor­dan Crane be­lieves Pat Lam’s newly-pro­moted side are bet­ter equipped to tackle the Pre­mier­ship now than they were un­der Andy Robin­son two years ago.

Bris­tol’s last foray into the Pre­mier­ship in 2016/17 ended mis­er­ably when, in Crane’s first sea­son at the club af­ter join­ing from Le­ices­ter, they man­aged just three wins and were rel­e­gated back to the Cham­pi­onship af­ter fin­ish­ing 13 points be­hind Worces­ter.

How­ever, with mar­quee signings Charles Pi­u­tau and John Afoa, along with 16 other new faces, join­ing ex­ist­ing Test class play­ers in Steven Lu­atua, Luke Mo­ra­han, Ian Madi­gan and Jack Lam, Crane in­sists there is lit­tle prospect of a hu­mil­i­at­ing re­peat. Crane told The Rugby

Pa­per: “Last time Bris­tol had been out of the Pre­mier­ship for eight years so a lot of guys had not had the ex­pe­ri­ence, but if you look at the signings we’ve made and the guys we’ve al­ready got, there’s a lot more rea­sons we will cope.

“The Pre­mier­ship’s re­lent­less but signings like Pi­u­tau and Afoa speak for them­selves and we’ll be go­ing in with a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. We’ll just need to get those 18 signings up to speed quickly to give us the best op­por­tu­nity of stay­ing up there.”

Of Lam’s im­pact since ar­riv­ing from Con­nacht last sum­mer, Crane added: “He’s been ex­cel­lent. He’s brought a real cul­ture to the group and we’re a lot tighter than we were.

“He’s brought in a good game plan that every­one backs and I think we’re in a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion to make sure we get the points to sur­vive in the Pre­mier­ship and then flour­ish.”

One man Crane ex­pects to shine in Bris­tol colours is diminu­tive Le­ices­ter hooker Harry Thacker, whose all-ac­tion style suits a free-flow­ing game.

Crane said: “Harry’s a great sign­ing with the way we want to play. He’s not had much chance at Le­ices­ter be­cause he’s not a big front rower like Tatafu Polota-Nau or Tom Youngs, but he’ll fit in bril­liantly.

“Those guys can lock down a scrum and be phys­i­cal around the park, whereas ‘Thacks’ can do the scrum and line-out stuff but his X-fac­tor is the ex­cit­ing way he plays. He wouldn’t look out of place at cen­tre the way he beats men with his foot­work.

“There was plenty of com­pe­ti­tion for his sig­na­ture, he just needs a bit of faith shown in him now and a good run of games. I’m cer­tain he’ll add lots of value to our team.”

Crane, 31, is rel­ish­ing a re­turn to top-flight rugby 13 years af­ter mak­ing his Pre­mier­ship de­but for Leeds against Wasps in 2005. He added: “It’s been a long ca­reer but I feel I’ve still got a lot of good years left and be­ing part of what Pat’s build­ing here is ex­cit­ing.

“We set stan­dards high and while we’ve not al­ways been pleased with our per­for­mances this sea­son, we’ll im­prove to stack up in the Pre­mier­ship.”

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

Old-stager: Jor­dan Crane

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