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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Friday, November 29th 2019

Preview: London Irish (h) - Gallagher Premiership

Table topping Bristol Bears welcome London Irish to Ashton Gate in round five of the Gallagher Premiership. 

Pat Lam's men were last-gasp winners over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park in round four, scoring 20 unanswered points in the second half to earn a memorable victory on the road. 

Irish have made an impressive start on their return to the top flight, winning two of their opening four games and running Saracens close at Allianz Park. 

Here's everything you need to know ahead of Sunday's clash. 

Match details:

  • Date: Sunday, December 1st
  • Kick-off: 3pm
  • Competition: Gallagher Premiership
  • Where: Ashton Gate
  • Referee: Wayne Barnes (218th Premiership game). Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley & Paul Dix. TMO: Stuart Terheege. Citing Officer: Shaun Gallagher.
  • Media coverage: BBC Radio Bristol, Channel 5 Highlights 
  • Tickets: Click here to purchase tickets for Ashton Gate

Team news

Toby Fricker makes his first Premiership start as top-of-the-table Bristol Bears host London Irish on Sunday (3pm KO).

The winger is rewarded for two tries in successive European Challenge Cup fixtures with selection against the Exiles, while Andy Uren returns from a head injury to start.

Charles Piutau (ankle), John Afoa (calf), and Nathan Hughes (finger) return to the starting line-up for the Ashton Gate clash.

Bristol Bears team to face London Irish at Ashton Gate on Sunday, December 1st (3pm KO):

15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Siale Piutau, 11. Toby Fricker; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. John Afoa, 4. Joe Joyce, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: 16. Will Capon, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. Max Lahiff, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Luke Hamilton, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Alapati Leiua.

London Irish:

15. Paddy Jackson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 13. Tom Stephenson, 12. Terrence Hepetema, 11. Curtis Rona, 10. Stephen Myler, 9. Ben Meehan; 1. Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 2. Saia Fainga’a, 3. Ollie Hoskins, 4. Ruan Botha, 5. Franco van der Merwe (c), 6. Matt Rogerson, 7. Blair Cowan, 8. Albert Tuisue.

Replacements: 16. Motu Matu’u, 17. Harry Elrington, 18. Lovejoy Chawatama, 19. Adam Coleman, 20. Steve Mafi, 21. TJ Ioane, 22. Nick Phipps, 23. Tom Parton.

Last time out

Sunday, October 6th 2019 | Bristol Bears 44-27 | Premiership Rugby Cup

Mat Protheroe scored twice in three minutes as Bristol Bears made it back-to-back wins in the Premiership Cup with a bonus-point victory over London Irish at Ashton Gate.

The full back’s quick-fire double, including a quite sensational second, came in the final four minutes, as Pat Lam’s men shook off a slow start to run in five tries in an entertaining clash.

Read the full report here.

Word from the camp

Steven Luatua believes defence is key when Bristol Bears host a dangerous London Irish outfit on Sunday (3pm KO).

The Bears captain - who has been one of the standout performers in the Gallagher Premiership so far - is determined to ensure the formidable Ashton Gate record remains intact.

Subscribe to Bristol Bears TV by clicking here.


Form guide

Bristol Bears only defeat in their last six matches in all competitions was 17-22 at Harlequins in round two of Gallagher Premiership Rugby.

Bristol are unbeaten in their last seven matches in all tournaments at Ashton Gate since Worcester beat them there in Premiership Rugby in March.

London Irish beat Leicester 36-11 at Madejski Stadium in round 4 but have not won successive matches in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since April 2015. The Exiles have won two of their last four away games in Premiership Rugby, at Harlequins in round 19 last season and at Wasps in the opening round of this campaign.

The two clubs have not met in Premiership Rugby for over a decade with London Irish winning the three most recent encounters since Bristol’s 14-11 victory at the Memorial Stadium in September 2007.

Bristol Bears: WWW
London Irish: WLW


Harry Thacker vs Saia Fainga'a

Dynamo hooker, Harry Thacker has enjoyed another impressive start to the Gallagher Premiership season, and on Sunday goes head to head with 36-cap Wallaby, Saia Fainga'a in what promises to be a blockbuster battle of the number twos.

Dan Thomas vs Blair Cowan

Bears number seven, Dan Thomas has made a meteoric rise to prominence in the English top flight, having been recognised as one of the league's breakthrough stars last season. On Sunday, Thomas faces off with experienced Scotland international, Blair Cowan. 

Statto's corner

  • Dan Thomas set for 50th competitive appearance for the club on Sunday (39 league, five European, six cup)
  • Luke Hamilton set for Gallagher Premiership debut for the club

Matchday sponsor: Beard Construction

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