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Will Carpenter

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Posted Wednesday, October 16th 2019

Hughes out to start season with a bang

‘Let’s start the season with a bang’ – that’s the message from Nathan Hughes ahead of Friday’s West Country derby against Bath at a sold-out Ashton Gate, as the number eight prepares to make his Gallagher Premiership debut for Bristol Bears on Friday night (7.45pm KO).

Hughes, who joined from Wasps during the summer and made successive starts for Pat Lam’s side in the Premiership Cup, is relishing the red-hot atmosphere in BS3 and has called on his side to ‘get the ball rolling’.

“It’s exciting - it’s been a long pre-season, and everyone has worked really hard for the start of a new campaign,” he said.

“It’s another game to go and showcase what we’ve done throughout pre-season. Individually, it’s about how you prepare yourself, right from today until the game.

“We can’t let the occasion take over yourself. You’ve got to prepare yourself mentally – it’s going to be a very big occasion for the club itself, in front of a big crowd.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to it, to go out there and start the season with a bang. We’ve worked really hard in the lead up to this, so let’s get the ball rolling.”

The 28-year-old says competition for places is hotting up in the squad after two impressive home wins in the Premiership Cup – but Hughes knows it’s time to up the ante.

“There won’t be any pressure if you prepare well. This whole week, we’ve prepared well, analysed Bath and they will be analysing us. We’ve got to just get to Friday and see how we go.

Hughes scores his first try in Bristol colours against London Irish (JMPUK).

“Everyone likes a derby game – when I first signed for the club there was big talk about Bristol against Bath as the first game of the season, with Bristol winning, so I’m looking forward to this one.

“It’s important to start well. With the World Cup, it gives teams a chance to try and get that head start.

“For us, we’ve got big games, but I think if we can have a good start in this first block, we’ll put ourselves in a good position for the whole season.

“In the Premiership Cup, we used it to prepare for this big one against Bath. The boys put their hands up to challenge for the jerseys, and we two good wins in the cup as well. I think this Friday, it’s about putting that puzzle together and completing it.

“When I take to the field, I’ll always give 100% to achieve that team goal, which is that we want to be in the Champions Cup next season. We want to be pushing those big teams and we want to make Ashton Gate a fortress. When teams come to Ashton Gate, we want to be fearful of us.”

For everything you need to know about what’s happening on matchday around the ground, check out the Gate Guide here.