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“The dream never stops, I just want to keep playing for Bristol” - Joyce

As the ink dried on Joe Joyce’s first professional contract at Bristol Rugby, his dad, Martin, pulled out a newspaper cutting from his back pocket, showing a grinning, ten-year-old Joyce celebrating the club’s 2005 promotion on the pitch at Otley.

Five years and 50 first team appearances later, the 23-year-old insists ‘the dream never stops’ as he sets his sights on a century of appearances in the blue and white hoops.

“I want to play as many games as I can for the club,” he said. “But not just that, I want to be playing at the highest level for this club. So, if I can get another 50 caps at the top level of rugby, I’ll be over the moon with that.

“The dream never stops, I just want to keep playing for Bristol. I’ve signed for two more years and this next two-year block is hopefully going to see the club establish itself in the Premiership. So, for me, it’s about improving and making sure I’m good enough to stay on that journey with Bristol.

“Our vision is to be playing in the Champions Cup and battling in the Premiership, so we’re all working towards that goal. I’m not a young lad anymore, I want to step up and make my mark.”

Joe Joyce marks his 50th competitive appearance with a try against Rotherham Titans at Ashton Gate (JMP UK).

Joyce marked his 50th competitive appearance for the club in style last weekend, crossing for a first-half try as Bristol disposed of Rotherham Titans at Ashton Gate – and the former Ireland U20 international admits the decision to extend his contract was a straightforward one.

“I would hate to see the club go on the journey that we are aiming to go on, and for me not to be a part of that,” he said.

“As soon as I found out they wanted to keep me, I wanted to get it done as soon as possible. Now I’ve signed, I can look forward to the rest of the season and just worry about performing well.”

Having learned the ropes in both the Bristol Combination and at SGS Filton College, Joyce knows his story and journey act as a beacon for aspiring rugby players across the city. But despite a fresh emphasis on indigenous representation in the blue and white hoops, he accepts his birthplace is irrelevant when it comes to making the grade under Pat Lam.

“I’m a Bristol fan as well as a Bristol player, so I want to see the best players play for the club. It’s up to me to try and develop to that standard.”

Joe Joyce

“I’m a Bristol fan as well as a Bristol player, so I want to see the best players play for Bristol. It’s up to me to try and develop to that standard,” he said. “I’ve got to be good enough to play in this team, regardless of where I’m from.”

“The way I came through, I didn’t go to private schools like Colston’s or Millfield or anything like that, I did it another way. I want to be a role model to the kids in Southmead and show that, it doesn’t matter where you’re from and what privileges you’ve got, you’ll find your way eventually. It might take longer and it might be a harder path, but if you’re good enough, you’ll eventually be spotted.

“I think Filton was the start of it for me, I started being more professional in everything I did. It prepared me for a professional environment – I went from training twice a week to training four of five times a week there. It’s the little disciplines it teaches you, the analysis, the one-on-one coaching – all of the things you need to develop your game to the next level.”

After a successful two-year stint at SGS Filton, it was at Dings Crusaders where a fresh-faced Joyce began to make his mark in senior rugby, and the lock insists he’ll be forever grateful to the Lockleaze club for their part in his development.

Joyce in action for Dings Crusaders (John White Media).

“In my first year on the Academy, half of the lads went on loan to Clifton and half the lads to Dings. I think Dings was the perfect fit for me, I thrived there, met a lot of good people who will be my friends for life and that’s probably one of the tightest team cultures I’ve been involved in.

“I still go down there when I can, so I loved my time at Dings and it was a big part of my journey. Dings helped me more than I could have imagined.

“But it’s not just Dings or Filton - there are so many people who have played a part in my rugby development and I just hope I can continue to make them proud.”

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