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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Tuesday, December 4th 2018

‘La Rochelle a stern test’ - McPhillips

Conor McPhillips says it’s ‘business as usual’ following Saturday’s bonus-point victory over Leicester Tigers, as Bristol Bears prepare to welcome Top 14 side, La Rochelle to Ashton Gate in the European Challenge Cup.

Bristol will head into the game full of confidence, but the assistant coach has warned that this weekend’s opponents ‘aren’t your average French team’.

“La Rochelle have taken the Top 14 by storm in the last couple of years and they are a massive counter attack team,” he said.

“They love to throw the ball around, they’ve got a good back three and half-backs, including Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who has played for the All Blacks.

“So, I think they are slightly different to your average French team. They’re still massive, but I think they play with a lot more ball in hand, so that is a big focus for us. We don’t want to kick loosely, and when we do kick, we need to get our chase right.

“It’s a chance to develop our game further, but we’ll be aiming for a quarter-final in Europe and that’s something we’ll definitely be focused on.”

Bristol ran in 20 unanswered second-half points to storm to an emphatic victory over Leicester last weekend, but McPhillips insists there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“For us, we’re delighted that we got the win, but when we got back to it on Monday, it was business as usual,” he said.

“We’re pretty focused on where we want to be, we’ve got a good block of games starting this weekend, so like any game, we’ll review the stuff that went well and there are still plenty of work-ons for us.

“We were up by such a score early on, but then the last 20 minutes we weren’t too pleased with. So, again, we’ll pick through that and find some things to work on.

“It’s a chance to develop our game further, but we’ll be aiming for a quarter-final in Europe and that’s something we’ll definitely be focused on.”

Conor McPhillips, assistant coach

“But on the whole, we are of course delighted with the result and delighted we put in such a good performance at Ashton Gate for our supporters.”

Off the back of a touch block of Gallagher Premiership fixtures, McPhillips says there could be some fresh faces in the starting line-up to take on La Rochelle, including potential long-awaited returns for Mat Protheroe and Luke Daniels, who are now back in selection contention.

“The key thing is that some guys have come off a tough block of Premiership games and they’ll get their legs minded a little bit,” he said.

“And we’ve got a good group of injured guys coming back into contention, so they’ve been reintegrated into training and will be up for selection in the coming weeks, and that’s exciting also.

“Training is competitive and whatever team we put out, it’s a team we believe can win the game. There will be changes and there will be guys coming back from injury and that’s what we’re excited about.

“All going well, Mat Protheroe and Luke Daniels will be coming back from long-term injuries. Mat (Protheroe) played 40 minutes against Harlequins in the Premiership Shield at the weekend, and he came through that really well, so he’ll be up for selection in the back three.

“He’s been training excellently in the last month and he’s champing at the bit. So, for all involved, coaches, S&C, medical, they will all have big smiles on their faces seeing Proth out there.

“Last year, we all enjoyed the streak of blond-hair flying down the wing, so we’re looking forward to seeing that again. It’s really pleasing for us, as a core group, to see him out there again.”

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