Bristol Bears announce retained list
Posted: Thursday, June 4th 2020
Tuesday, July 16th 2019
Seven key members of the Bristol squad committed their futures to the club on #TiedDownTuesday.
Here's a wrap-up of an action-packed afternoon, as we analyse each of the players who have signed on the dotted line at Ashton Gate.
A graduate of the club’s Academy, Joe Joyce has taken his game to another level since being named Players’ Player of the Season during 2017/18 GKIPA Championship winning campaign.
Joyce has flourished under Pat Lam, establishing himself as a Premiership lock with ten top-flight appearances during the 2018/19 season.
The homegrown lock – one of the club’s longest serving players - made his competitive debut in 2013.
Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, said: “Joe is a hugely popular member of the squad and a player with a great attitude and willingness to improve.
"He’s a local product who is performing well in the Premiership and gives his everything for the club – Joe along with Andy embodies what our vision is all about and I’m really pleased to continue working with him."
It doesn't get much better than this! 🔥🔥🔥— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 7, 2019
More @BristolBears brilliance as they went end to end for @AndyUren9's score during their win over @gloucesterrugby 🐻
💬 "If you're going to retain #GallagherPrem status, that's the kind of magic you'll need" 🎥👇 pic.twitter.com/UnWpmTdEhh
A match-winning try against Gloucester at an electric Ashton Gate proved a fitting highlight in a hugely accomplished season from Andy Uren.
The Academy graduate's first appearance of the season saw him make an important impact from the bench in the opening day victory over Bath - and the scrum half kicked on from there, making 20 Gallagher Premiership appearances as Bristol secured a ninth-place finish.
Uren fought it out with Harry Randall and Nic Stirzaker for the number nine shirt, and formed a strong partnership with fellow Academy graduate, Callum Sheedy in the latter stages of the season.
The 23-year-old offered fantastic variety to his game, with an impressive range of box kicks and the ability to snipe from the base.
Director of Rugby Pat Lam said: “Andy came all the way through the Academy system and it’s fantastic to see a young Bristolian perform so well for his hometown team.
"He’s put a lot of work and effort into developing his rugby understanding and growing his game and was rewarded with consistent game time in the Premiership.
"We’re excited about the player that Andy will become over the next three seasons.”
With 17 Premiership appearances under his belt last season, Ed Holmes’ abrasive brand of rugby has seen the lock establish himself as an integral member of the pack.
Holmes joined Bristol from Exeter Chiefs and made his debut for the club in the GKIPA Championship winning victory over Nottingham at Lady Bay.
And his maiden venture into the Premiership proved a hugely successful one, with a powerful carry in the build-up to Tom Pincus' last-gasp winner against Newcastle Falcons a standout highlight for the 23-year-old.
“Ed put in a lot of hard work during preseason to add size and power to his tremendous work ethic and physicality on the field.
"He really stepped up last season and also showed the Premiership what a valuable player he is for the Bears.
"Another young English player, Ed has all the ingredients to keep improving his game and contributing to the Bears’ vision,” added Lam.
It got a little confusing at Franklin's Gardens when the clock went red ⏰— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 11, 2019
One thing we're sure about 👉 @OConorPiers securing @BristolBears the vital points 💎
The young centre using the overlap to send the away fans into a frenzy 🙌
📺 @channel5_tv highlights at 7pm 📺 pic.twitter.com/yxnP4win0i
The 2018/19 campaign was a real breakthrough season for Piers O’Conor, culminating in an England call-up for the June clash with the Barbarians at Twickenham.
The versatile back, who featured at centre, full back and wing for Bristol, eventually made the number 13 shirt his own during the second half of the season, with fleet-footed, balanced running and attacking instinct causing numerous problems for Premiership defences.
O’Conor made 787 metres and beat 45 defenders during an outstanding debut season for the club, as well as 20 clean breaks and 168 carries.
His contract extension with the Bears keeps him at Ashton Gate until at least 2022, and a continuation of his steep upward spiral will surely lead to further international honours for O'Conor.
Lam said: “Piers, at just 23 years old, is relatively young as an outside centre and has an exciting future ahead of him in the game.
"The consistency of his performances and the way he slotted into the Bears game-plan in a few positions made him an integral part of the team’s success last season.
"Piers is another example of hard work and coachability being rewarded with consistent Premiership game time and England recognition."
Randall was another to break on to the Gallagher Premiership scene in scintillating style in 2018/19, with the young scrum half scoring four tries in 18 top-flight appearances having made the summer switch from West Country rivals, Gloucester.
The pacey, elusive number nine touched down against Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints and Wasps, showcasing some smart support lines to finish off flowing Bears attacks from deep.
The 21-year-old, who represented England at U20 level, has already been earmarked for future international honours.
Lam said: “Harry plays with a tempo and dynamism that fits our game. He is a constant attacking threat and his ability and talent has shone through in his first season in the Premiership.
"We are blessed to have both Harry and Andy as two young English scrum halves who we believe will be good enough to play at a higher level as they continue to put the hard work in required.”
🚨 JUST 30 MINS TO GO 🚨— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 1, 2019
The dynamic front-row duo of 🦹♂️ @harry_thacker and 🦸♂️ @John_Afoa will be out to spoil @gloucesterrugby's raid on Ashton Gate 🏟
Can @BristolBears secure those all-important #GallagherPrem points? 💎
Switch over to @btsport for 7.45pm 📺 pic.twitter.com/aBLT0eyhBZ
An immediate fans' favourite at Ashton Gate, Harry Thacker played a huge part in Bristol Bears' impressive first season back in the big time.
The dynamic hooker was Bristol's joint leading try scorer in the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership, crossing seven times in 21 league appearances.
Thacker was named in both the Guardian and Telegraph team of the season, and also topped the Bears' charts with 224 carries and 227 tackles in 21 league appearances.
Thacker caught the eye with a sensational second-half hat-trick against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena, before adding a brace against his former club, Leicester Tigers the following week, as Bristol stormed to a 41-10 victory.
Lam said: “Harry is an outstanding hooker who brings another dimension to the position that not many can, which makes him an extremely valuable for our team.
"He has shown what an influential player he is for Bristol Bears, week in, week out.
"He’s another young Englishman who has taken the top flight by storm and who I believe will go to another level over the next three seasons.”
Since joining the club in 2017, Luke Morahan has been one of the Bears’ standout performers.
The Australian international earned national plaudits for his displays in the Premiership last season, making 16 appearances and scooping the club’s try of the season award for his solo effort versus Leicester Tigers.
Morahan made a staggering 987 metres in just 16 games, as well as making the joint most clean breaks - 27 - level with fellow wing, Alapati Leiua.
Add in 45 defenders beaten - the second most in the squad, and you've got a remarkable maiden season in English rugby's top flight for the former Western Force flyer.
Lam said: “Luke is a world-class performer and brings so much quality and composure to the back three.
"We are striving for a squad that has a blend of world class players and young English talent, so to have somebody of Luke’s calibre and influence in our environment is massive for us and our vision.”
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