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‘We’re relishing the challenge’ - Oliver

Bristol Bears Women head coach, Kim Oliver has urged her side to front up to the challenge when they take on reigning champions Saracens in Saturday’s Tyrells Premier 15s opener at Shaftesbury Park.

The Bears head into the game off the back of an encouraging pre-season, and Oliver insists they are relishing the start of the new campaign.

“It’s really exciting. It will give us a really good idea of how the pre-season has gone – it feels like it has gone very well, but it’s a massive test for us on Saturday,” she said.

“Being at home in front of a big crowd gives the girls a lot of confidence. We get good crowds here and the support massively helps the girls on the pitch – especially in that last ten or 15 minutes when they’re flagging, it gives them that lift that they need.

“Saracens are a big, physical team – you don’t win Tyrells twice easily – they’ve got a lot of senior players, a lot of internationals.

Welsh internationals Keira Bevan, Siwan Lillicrap, Manon Johnes and Lauran Smyth.

“So, we’ve got to stick to our game, really take it to them, do things our way, play at our tempo and make sure we stick to our game plan.”

Bears Women have been boosted by the signing of four Welsh internationals ahead of the new season, with Keira Bevan, Siwan Lillicrap, Manon Johnes and Lauran Smyth linking up with Kim Oliver’s side.

All four were involved in the most recent Six Nations campaign, which saw Wales finish third with victories over Scotland, Ireland and a draw against Italy. 

“They will be a huge boost,” added Oliver. “Welsh internationals are a big calibre, so they’ve come in as players, but they are senior players in their own right.

“We’ve always had a big Welsh influence here and it’s something we’ll continue to do.”