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Will Carpenter


Posted Tuesday, January 14th 2020

Joyce expecting tough test as Bears target top seed

Joe Joyce says Bristol Bears are expecting a stern test when they travel to Parma to take on Zebre in the final round of the Challenge Cup pool stages.

The Bears are the competition’s leading side after five games, having accumulated 24 out of a possible 25 points, and head to Italy off the back of a 52-3 victory over Brive at Ashton Gate last weekend.

But after falling to a last gasp defeat at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi last season, Joyce says they are no illusions as to the task they face on Saturday.

“We mentioned what happened last year in our meeting this morning – we can’t underestimate them, and they seem to be a team that keeps getting better and better.

“They’ve got a lot of internationals in their side, so we can’t go there at 80%, we need to be at 100%, because it’s going to be a tough game for sure.

“We said from the beginning that we’re in it to win it (the Challenge Cup), and so far, we’re on track. But the group stage isn’t over yet, and we want to get one of the top two seedings.

“Last week, it was good to get back on track – we had a bit of a slip in our league form, but confidence is back up again and we’ve got to make sure we go to Zebre, do the job, and then head into the Gloucester game.

"When we beat Zebre at home, we had to work hard for it, so we’re under no illusions that we’ve got to go there again and start well.”

The bonus point victory over Brive last weekend secured Bristol a home quarter final with one round to play – but Joyce highlighted the importance of finishing as one of the knockout stages’ top two seeds.

“We fancy our chances against anyone at Ashton Gate, so that’s why we’re so keen to make sure that if we can win our home quarter final, that we would be back there again for a semi-final. It would be great for our fans, to have such big games at Ashton Gate.

“At the beginning of the season, we got in that habit of winning games, and we want to get back there again.”