Banner image

In-Depth: Record-breaker Varndell keeping his eyes on the prize

After breaking the Premiership’s all-time try-scoring record last season, Tom Varndell has his sights set on a century of top-flight scores – but for now, the speedster is fully focused on helping Bristol Rugby’s quest for an immediate return to the promised land.

The 32-year-old passed Mark Cueto’s record of 90 Premiership tries during a 42-8 defeat to Harlequins at Ashton Gate last February, leaving him seven short of landmark feat. But the wing knows both he and Bristol Rugby have a huge hurdle to overcome before he can begin his pursuit of three figures.

“The next target is to get Bristol back in the Premiership and that’s the target for everyone in the squad and something I want to be a part of,” he said.

“I want to be playing Premiership rugby, along with the 50 plus other players in the squad. That is the ultimate target, but adding to the tries that I got in the Premiership last season is obviously another goal.

“I want to make it hard for the next person to catch me and that means I need to keep playing and keep scoring for as long as I can.

“Scoring 100 Premiership tries would mean another seven and I’d love to get more than a 100 - but that’s a great goal to set my sights on."

Tom Varndell touches down for his record-breaking try against Harlequins last season (JMP UK).

“First things first though, is this Championship season and getting out of this league, because that’s where we want to be.

“We want to be playing at the top level; we’re aiming for the Champions Cup and all of the plaudits that come with that. It’s a massive season for us now - we’ve already seen that it’s going to be a tough campaign and we need to be at our best every time we take to the field.”

Varndell is now in his 13th season in professional rugby, after signing a one-year extension to his Bristol Rugby contract in January – and the former Leicester Tigers and Wasps star believes the squad’s strong blend of youth and experience has created a energising dynamic.

"The next target is to get Bristol back in the Premiership and that’s the target for everyone in the squad and something I want to be a part of.”

Tom Varndell

“We’ve got players with a lot of experience; Steven Luatua, Ian Madigan, myself, Jordan Crane,” he said.

“But we need to make sure we use our experience in the right way and ensure everyone is ready and knows what is needed to be a Premiership player.

“I think we went in a bit cold last season and we got found out – we lost ten games in a row and we can’t be doing that again. Next time we get into the Premiership, we need to stay there and that’s what Pat is already telling us now.”

The recruitment of a large number of younger players during the off-season has seen a significant shift in the age profile of the squad – and Varndell believes it’s up to the experienced branch of the squad to ensure their transition into senior rugby is a seamless one.

Varndell taking on the Hartpury defence at Ashton Gate on the opening day of the Championship season (JMP UK).

“It’s important that we have a good string of young players coming through,” he said.

“Young talent is what the game is all about, getting them in and getting them playing top-level rugby.

“I was very lucky when I was at Leicester Tigers - as a young player, there were a lot of senior guys around me, helping me through and that’s what I want to do to the younger players at Bristol.

“I want to be on the same level as them in terms of respect, we don’t want there to be a hierarchy; they should all experience the same things as I did growing up in professional rugby.

“It’s important for them to learn the game and this is the perfect environment for them to do that.

“They had so much experience, but respected me like anyone else, so I was very, very lucky that, as a youngster, they didn’t treat me any differently – and that’s how I treat the young lads here.”

For now, the records and accolades will have to wait, as Tom Varndell sets his sights on the ultimate goal – promotion.