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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Monday, April 9th 2018

Positional switch pays off for Fenton-Wells

Nick Fenton-Wells says he is proud to have committed his future to Bristol Rugby after making a challenging but successful mid-season switch from the back-row to the front-row.

The former Saracens and Bedford Blues forward admits the positional switch was ‘a gamble’, but one he was ready and willing to take head on.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “My wife and I are settled in Bristol and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be - it’s my home now.

“It’s been an awesome season. There is obviously a lot of change from last season, but it was so welcome, and the boys have really bought into it. There’s some new faces and I’ve made some great friends in this new squad, so looking forward to what the future holds.

“That decision to change position was one that I’d thought about for a long time, it just required someone to encourage me to make the move. I spoke to a couple of the coaches beforehand about it, and when the opportunity arose, it was one that I wanted to jump at.

“It was a big challenge for me, but one that I was relishing because I knew what it was going to take and wanted to challenge myself in that regard.

“There was a lot of competition at loose forward and we were struggling at hooker and I thought I could offer my services one way or another. Thankfully, Pat was keen on the idea and backed me to do it.”

“That decision to change position was one that I’d thought about for a long time, it just required someone to encourage me to make the move. I spoke to a couple of the coaches beforehand about it, and when the opportunity arose, it was one that I wanted to jump at.

Nick Fenton-Wells

Fenton-Wells concedes the transition was far from smooth, with the art of scrummaging heading the list of challenges facing him. The 31-year-old credits the club’s coaching team for their time and effort in assisting his switch but knows the hard graft has only just begun.

“You’ll continue to learn at scrum time all the time, because opposition scrummage differently,” he said.

“A lot of people said it would be throwing in the lineout that would be the biggest challenge, but because of previous experience of throwing and of playing other sports, that depth perception and understanding helped a lot.

“Scrummaging was by far the toughest – when I went into that Saracens A League game, it was such a shock – and a welcome shock that I needed, and it made me learn very quickly.

“A lot of credit must go to the coaches because they’ve worked with me tirelessly. Mark Irish and Jon Thomas have been there for me, testing me, questioning me and helping me to get better – and that’s really all you need.

“You just need people to trust in you and believe in you. It was just those extra hours that they gave to me that helped me to where I am.

“So, I’m very happy to have gone from where I was then, to where I am now, but I’ve still got a long way to go. Hopefully this is the start of a new chapter in my rugby career. I’m stoked to be here.”

Fenton-Wells’ contribution to the Bristol Rugby cause hasn’t been limited to the field, with the South African-born forward playing a key role in the community. He was appointed community liaison in the leadership group and has taken the role head-on, helping deliver the club’s vision ‘to inspire our community through rugby success’.

“Community is a huge part of our vision. I think that at most clubs I’ve been at, the community has been a big project, but it hasn’t been part of the vision.

“So, to have been given that role, I was chuffed and wanted to get stuck in. It has just shown the amazing work of the charities and the amount of lives they touch.

“It’s an unbelievable Community Foundation from all aspects and I wanted to dive head-first into it. Having finished studying, I had a bit of extra time on my hands and that for me, was an obvious choice to go into it.

“It’s so rewarding to see how appreciative these people are to have an hour of your time – I mean, what’s an hour, it’s not a lot. The guys have been outstanding, they’ve jumped at opportunities to get out into the community and the guys believe in what we’re trying to do.

“They’ve been amazing on and off the field, so we’re all really chuffed. The end goal for this season has always been to get back into the Premiership, and we’re so proud to have achieved that.”