How are things shaping up for pre-season?
Things are going well, all of the squad has now been intergrated and we have been locked into a hard but stimulating preseason which is building on what was already a strong close knit culture from last year.
What was behind the move from Sale to Bristol?
It was a lot of little things added together, which made me come to the hard decision of leaving Sale. It was a chance to be closer to my family and also have the opportunity to take on a fresh challenge at a time when exciting times are happening at Bristol.
How are you feeling about the season ahead?
I am incredibly excited about what this season has in store and just want to get it started.
Do you think you can win promotion with Bristol?
I think promotion is within our sights. The Championship is a long hard season that comes down to two games at the end of it all. With other championship squads looking strong this year it will be tough but we are hoping to be there at the death.
Are you looking forward to working with Andy Robinson?
Very much looking forward to Andy Robinson. Before signing I had spoken to players who had worked under him and they gave first class reviews. It is a massive signing for Bristol.
Who are going to be the teams to beat this season?
It is going to be tough to tell between last years top four. Nottingham and Bedford are always strong and London Welsh should have taken some positives from their premiership experience but knowing the talent at the club and the general feeling in the North right now, I think Leeds could be ones to watch.
Would you consider a return to Sale/the Premiership if all doesn’t go to plan?
I loved my time at Sale but we cannot look back. My future is with Bristol and expect that things will go to plan
How do you think old club Newcastle will get on in the Premiership this season?
Having been part of the Harlequins promotion squad that gained Heineken Cup qualification in the first year back I know that in Dean Richards they have one of the best to prepare them for life in the premiership. Led by the local, talented openside Will Welch they have all the necessary grit required to survive. Lets just hope that Gopperths boots aren’t too big to fill.
Who do you feel are the main relegation candidates in the Premiership this season?
Tough one. I think it is going to be a similar story to last year where a club will be unexpectedly in the dogfight, similar to London Irish and Sale. With a settled backroom staff, Sale won’t be there and nor can I see Newcastle there. It will come from London or the Midlands.
How has it been balancing a degree with a professional rugby career?
It has been difficult but I took so many positives out of it. I learned an incredible amount doing a degree that I just wouldn’t have under my own propulsion. It also served as a steadying distraction from rugby. It was nice to have the stable environment of the university lecture hall when rugby could be emotionally up and down dependant on the weekend result or injury.
What are the plans for after you hang up your boots?
Having finished my degree this will open a lot of doors in the city so I will spend this year exploring opportunities there. However if nothing takes my imagination I might be brave and help out on the family farm.
What have been the key differences between Quins, Newcastle, Sale and now Bristol?
Its difficult to answer that question as each club are under completely different pressures. Rugby has changed a lot in 10 years which has each provided different challenges for the clubs to overcome. Taking a longer term view Harlequins success now is based on solid top down foundations from 10 years ago, with the other clubs each on a similar path.
What are you most looking forward to about this season with Bristol?
I cannot look any further than the double header at Sandy Park against the Pirates, it will be a big occasion for the club and league. We have a few games to get our defensive and attacking systems tuned up but with the competition in the squad everybody is fighting hard to make sure their name is down on the first team sheet.
Would you ever consider playing abroad and if so were?
I have always liked the idea of working abroad. Be it with rugby or after rugby should the right opportunity arise I would be keen. But I turned down those opportunities for the chance to join Bristol.
Who would you most like to play alongside in world rugby?
I think the opportunity to play outside Carlos Spencer would have been an experience..