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Will Carpenter


Posted Wednesday, January 15th 2020

Press bitesize: Zebre (a) - European Challenge Cup

Director of Rugby, Pat Lam and second row, Joe Joyce faced the media ahead of Saturday's European Challenge Cup trip to face Zebre.

The Italian Job

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, but fellto a last gasp defeat at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi last season - and 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.

“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 job in hand

Pat Lam has called on his side to rise to the challenge of securing top seed in the Challenge Cup, when they travel to Italy for a ‘tough test’ against Zebre.

“There’s no point going all this way, get to top seed and then blow it in the last game,” he said.

“The win is vital to us and we’ve put ourselves in a position where all we need is a win. We only have to look back at last year and what happened, where we were very disappointing and lost to Zebre over there.

“So, we’ve referenced that game this week – it’s a big motivation to ensure we get the job done.

“I can take, from looking at Zebre in their last home game against a very good Cheetahs side, and they put 40 points on them. They beat Stade Francais away, and I had a look at that, and they played really well.

"There are guys who are in the Italian national side and this will be the last game for them to push for places in the Six Nations, and then they have a rest, so they have every reason to be at their best, so this is a huge challenge for us that we are not taking lightly.”

Purdy bolsters back line

Pat Lam says Bristol have bought in 'quality and experience' in Henry Purdy, who has arrived at the club on a short-term loan agreement from Coventry.

With Siale Piutau (knee), Piers O’Conor (knee), Charles Piutau (knee), Will Hurrell (head), Luke Daniels (shoulder) and Charlie Powell (ankle) all sidelined, Lam has bolstered his midfield options with the addition of the 25-year-old until the end of the season.

“We’re light in the centre position, so it’s good to be able to bring somebody of Henry’s quality and experience in right away,” said Lam.

“Henry knows a lot of the boys in our environment and he comes with a desire to establish himself back in the Premiership. He’s been a standout performer in the Championship and also benefitted from a spell in Otago during the Mitre 10 Cup.

“Henry passed his medical assessment on Monday, so he’ll be straight into contention for Saturday’s Premiership Shield game versus Saracens Storm.”