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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Tuesday, March 6th 2018

Diehard Red Joe Joyce sets sights on City heights

As Korey Smith wheeled away to celebrate a momentous stoppage-time winner against footballing giants, Manchester United, 26,000 supporters inside Ashton Gate were sent into raptures.

Among the delirious red and white faithful stood – or bounced - Joe Joyce, Bristol Rugby’s diehard Robin, who has now set his sights on reaching similar heights in the blue and white hoops.  

“Watching City beat Manchester United was probably one of the best feelings I’ve had in sport,” said Joyce. “I was there with quite a few of the rugby lads and staff, so for all of us to be there, experiencing that atmosphere and seeing how much it meant to the city, it gave us a taste of what could be at Bristol Rugby in the future.

“If we can win promotion this season, start winning games and get into Europe, we could have an atmosphere like that as well. Watching that game against United actually inspired a lot of rugby lads as well. Obviously, I was buzzing because I’m a Bristol City fan, but to turn around and see all of the Bristol Rugby lads buzzing as well, it was brilliant.

“There has been a lot of talk about the potential over the last couple of years, especially with the football. You look at the crowds over the last five or six weeks, they’ve had 20,000-plus at Ashton Gate. I remember going there when I was little, and it was crowds of 14 or 15,000, so to see the crowds of 20,000 every week nowadays is amazing. If we, at Bristol Rugby, can attract those sorts of crowds in the next few years – that’s the dream.

Joe Joyce signs autographs for supporters at Ashton Gate (JMP UK).

“Even though last year we were in the Premiership and on a pretty bad run, at the Bath home game, we still had thousands and thousands of supporters there and they got behind us – you could hear them. So, imagine if we were winning games consistently and competing in the European Cup – what sort of attendances could we get then?

“The potential is huge, but we know that will be dictated by our success on the field and we’re working towards inspiring the community.”

It’s been something of a breakthrough season for Joyce, who in November, extended his Bristol Rugby stay until at least 2020 – but the lock insists he won’t be getting carried away with his own progress.

“Before this season I knew it was a big year for me, being out of contract and injured quite a lot last year. So, it was important that, with new coaches and a new way of playing, I adapted really quickly.

“I had my chance and took it - I’ve played a lot of games this year, but the most important thing now is not to get complacent. I want to finish the season well, because if I fade away now, in the summer, I’ll be looking back on my performances with some regret. I want to look back and be proud that I kept it going for the whole campaign.

Joyce scores against Rotherham Titan (JMP UK).

“I had my chance and took it - I’ve played a lot of games this year, but the most important thing now is not to get complacent.
I want to finish the season well, because if I fade away now, in the summer, I’ll be looking back on my performances with some regret.
I want to look back and be proud that I kept it going for the whole campaign."

Joe Joyce

“I suppose it has been a breakthrough season for me, in that I’ve played more games than I have done previously, but I want my breakthrough to be in the Premiership.

“Our goal as a club is to play top rugby in the Premiership, so hopefully we can finish the job this season, and next season can be another breakthrough at a higher level.”

Before Joyce crosses that bridge, the Academy graduate remains fully-focused on the job in hand, as Pat Lam’s side look to hammer home their 15-point advantage at the summit of the GKIPA Championship and secure an immediate return to the top flight.

“I know it’s a cliché, but we’re taking each week as it comes and preparing for the challenges ahead,” said Joyce. “We’ve got six games remaining and obviously we’re aiming to win every one of them. We owe that to ourselves and to the supporters, who continue to stand by us.”


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