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Will Carpenter

writes

Posted Thursday, December 12th 2019

McPhillips targets repeat performance in Paris

Assistant coach, Conor McPhillips has challenged Bristol Bears to back up last weekend’s bonus-point victory at Ashton Gate, when his side head to Paris to face Stade Francais on Saturday (8pm KO GMT) in the European Challenge Cup.

Bristol scored three times in the final 15 minutes to seal maximum points and make it three wins out of three in Pool Four last Saturday – and McPhillips believes they will have to improve on that showing in the return fixture.

“There are challenges attached to playing the same side back to back, but we’re kind of used to it now,” he said.

“It does shorten your week though, because your review becomes your preview. You always plan a couple of games ahead, but when it’s the same opposition, you’ll kind of have a plan where you’d expect things to work and if they don’t, you get to fix them straight away.

“The key thing for us is that we want those five points – if we sit on 20 points after four games, that puts us a long way to qualification. If we can tick that off, the key thing is home qualification, which means you probably need another win or two. So, five points is key this weekend and then we can sit over Christmas on 20 points and reassess in January.”

Bristol have already triumphed in France this season, having stormed to a 36-0 victory over Brive last month – and McPhillips says that experience will stand them in good stead on Saturday.

“We had a good template going to Brive, where we put in a really good performance and kept them to nil, so the boys know what it takes to win away in France, and it’s about trying to implement that again. There will be no fear, because we’ve done it before and we’ve played the opposition before, so it’s exciting.

“We will pick a strong team - we’ve made no bones about it, we’re treating it like a Champions Cup game, playing our strongest team every week. With a six-day turnaround to Saracens, anyone with niggles won’t be risked, but it will be a strong team.

“Stade Francais have some exceptional individuals – guys with a lot of ‘X-factor’, and they are becoming a lot more cohesive now as a team under their new coaching setup. So, they will be a threat and it will be a tough ask away from home.

“I think we’ll need to improve (on last week). It was great to get the bonus point - we left it late, which wasn’t ideal, but the positive of that is we’ve shown late in games, we’re scoring and that’s testament to our fitness and the trust in our game plan.

“It’s almost like we’re battering down the door and when it finally bursts, and we get those tries. So, clearly you want to be further ahead earlier, but if we’re in with a sniff late in the game, we’ll back ourselves.”