A lot has been made of culture in Rugby over recent seasons and there is no doubt that the right culture within a team can help to deliver great levels of success. The obvious example of this would be the much talked about Wolfpack at Saracens. However, when you don’t have the same playing resources as clubs like Saracens – the right culture becomes so much more important.
Bristol have enjoyed a successful return to the Premiership this season, winning 2 of their 5 games so far and picking up 2 bonus points; there is no doubt that the right attitude on and off the field at Ashton gate has been a crucial part of their rise over the last two seasons. So much so, upon taking over, Pat Lam insisted on being able to take control of the culture and leadership aspects of the club as well as on field matters. Part of this has included giving extra accountability to players in both positive and negative situations; rewarding success and identifying & remedying failure. Forwards coach Jonathan Thomas has been talking this week on the Flats & Shanks podcast (https://flatsandshanks.com/2018/10/01/series-3-episode-5-with-jon-thomas/) on how the team has been incentivised to concede no tries from goal line mauls in their first six games with an all-expenses paid trip to their restaurant.
In their 5 games to date – they have successfully defended 16 goal line mauls and the appetite to reach the target is strong. A notable achievement when you consider their opponents – Bath, Saracens, Gloucester, Quins and Saints. Fines have also been introduced for forwards that play with fewer than 8 studs in their boots – a throwback to an old school approach. Thomas wants to ensure that his forwards remain grounded and prioritise their main role within the team and is keen to avoid any unwanted slipups. There is no merit in desiring a boot more suited to outside backs – with a particular friendly ribbing being given to Wallaby legend George Smith who is struggling to give up his football boots. Ultimately, this is a bit of fun, but hard work, team unity and not wanting to let your team mates down definitely helps build the correct culture at a club – which can be decisive in shaping a season.
Pat Lam has already stated that defence in the team’s main point of focus this week as they head into a monumental clash with Worcester. This game could be crucial at the end of season – both teams will want to take a step closer to avoiding relegation. It will also be worth keeping an eye out to see if the Bristol pack can go 6 from 6 in defending lineouts and head into the European break with a spring in their step (and a free meal in their stomachs).
Written by James Jones – 09/10/18