Bristol Bears’ forwards have been putting significant focus on their scrum in training this week as they look to improve the key setpiece area following a nightmare at the coal face against Saints last weekend Bristol travel up the M5 to Kingsholm to take on Gloucester Rugby on Friday night and there is certainly no resting on their laurels despite having enjoyed the bragging rights in The Rifles Cup in recent years. The Bears have won their last five Premiership games against the Cherry and Whites but director of rugby Pat Lam is clear things have changed at their Round 10 opponents who currently sit five places higher than Bristol in the league table in sixth. This season Gloucester’s pack look fearsome, with the most dangerous maul in the Premiership being a key source of tries, but with a backline being run by summer signing Adam Hastings at fly-half they provide threats all over the park. Lam said: “They are a completely different team now to what they were last year and that is the challenge going there. “They seem more on the same page and it always happens when you come in as a new coach, when you are making a transition of styles, changing the culture – and that is what George Skivington [head coach] has been working on and it is getting better.” Bristol’s underperforming scrum cost them any chance of winning against Northampton with Lam reflecting that his side got ‘dominated.’
England and British Lions tighthead Kyle Sinckler, along with former All Black prop John Afoa, are both expected to return this weekend having missed Round Nine, but Lam said his side’s struggles weren’t all about the personnel on the field with Jake Woolmore at loosehead, Jake Kerr at hooker and Max Lahiff at tighthead before getting injured. Sinckler was being rested following his Autumn campaign with England, getting an additional week off having been brought back early from his ‘mandatory rest period’ after the Lions tour this summer. Clubs were given permission to play their stars sooner than originally agreed on the basis they would get those weeks off at other times of the year. Reflecting on the problems against Saints, Lam said: “Our scrum hasn’t been like that for a while now. It reminded me of the Championship days. “The beauty of it is we know the fixes and the boys have been working on it this week because if we improve in those areas with our continued effort then we will be a lot better this week. “The first thing everyone looks at is the frontrow, but a scrum is not just about the front row, it is a collective as an eight. “As a group there were certainly a lot of things against Northampton that were not right and that is a mental thing. “It has been highlighted by John [Afoa, scrum coach] and some work has been done on it. “So it doesn’t matter if you have Kyle or John back, it is about everyone collectively going about their business.” Lock Chris Vui returned from injury last weekend while Dave Attwood was rested but will likely be rolled out to go head-to-head with the likes of Argentina international Matías Alemanno in the Gloucester pack.
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