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Tim919

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Cambrian's post reminded me of my second ever flight was from Rhoose to Jersey on a Viscount of Cambrian Airways. What a lovely plane to fly on with those big windows the views were something else. I still have the ticket somewhere.
 

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TheLocalYokel

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Yet another set of circumstances that at face value make the Westminster government's virus restrictions look ridiculous.

Fans are not allowed into the stands at Ashton Gate to watch a match yet they are allowed to watch the match on the giant tv screen at the Sports Bar complex part of the stadium. In other words they can spectate inside a room but are not allowed to go through a door and up some steps to watch the same match 'live' from the open-air stands.

Yet the government allows people into theatres to watch plays and ballet.

 

TheLocalYokel

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Many congratulations to Bristol Bears who beat Toulon 32-19 at Aix En Provence this evening to win the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The director of rugby, Pat Lam, deserves huge credit as does owner Steve Lansdown for supporting Lam both financially and with all-round backing.

I didn't think they would win. The game was in France just an hour from Toulon and 1,000 Toulon fans were allowed into the ground to watch. Furthermore Bristol were without three of their most influential players, including their captain.

Lam took over at Bristol three years ago when they were in the Championship and he said his five-year goal was to win the English Premiership and the European Rugby Champions Cup. This season his target was a top six Prem position - they finished third - and winning the Challenge Cup. They are in the Champions Cup next season.

They lost to Wasps in the semi-final Prem play-off but now might have another chance because Covid has struck a number of Wasp players. I hope Bristol don't get to the play-off final that way. Were they to beat Exeter (I believe that Exeter are still the strongest side in the Prem so it would be difficult) it would be a hollow victory.

It's such a shame that the army of Bristol fans can't enjoy their team's success at the games this season after so many years languishing in the second tier and struggling in the Prem when they did get there from time to time. There was even a time when Bristol - one of the top sides for much of the 20th Century - might have gone out of existence.

Had it not been for local self-made billionaire Steve Lansdown, who also owns Bristol City, coming to the rescue nearly a decade ago and at first anonymously Bristol would not be where they are now.

Steve Lansdown is one of those people who enjoys both football and rugby equally, as I do. He also knows a lot about money and finance having been one of the founders of the eponymous financial group and FTSE100 company, Hargreaves Lansdown.

I'm delighted for him because he has put probably hundreds of millions into his Bristol Sport empire, not least turning Ashton Gate into a first-class stadium and financing brand new training bases for both Bristol Bears (arguably one of the best in Europe) and Bristol City on separate sites. He deserves some success. Now if Bristol City could reach the Premier League.....................
 

Severn

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Hear, hear, well said!

You've captured my sentiments exactly, and I'm sure many in Bristol, and further afield would agree.

What a day/week/year it's been for Bristol Rugby.
 

8mileshigh

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Probably because I’m a gas head I think the reason Steve lansdown invested in the rugby was so that he could have premiership sport at Ashton gate
 

Jerry

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Many congratulations to Bristol Bears who beat Toulon 32-19 at Aix En Provence this evening to win the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The director of rugby, Pat Lam, deserves huge credit as does owner Steve Lansdown for supporting Lam both financially and with all-round backing.
I'm curious but do English rugby fans view winning this cup as a big achievement?
 

TheLocalYokel

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Hear, hear, well said!

You've captured my sentiments exactly, and I'm sure many in Bristol, and further afield would agree.

What a day/week/year it's been for Bristol Rugby.
I take it that you are a rugby follower, Severn. I went to a grammar school (at Weston) when I was eleven via the eleven-plus exam and was introduced to rugby there. I was extremely fortunate in that our main rugby master was WTH (Willie) Davies who had played for Wales and was in the Swansea team that famously beat the supposedly 'unbeatable' All Blacks' in 1935. He was then 18 and was the outside-half and together with his 18-year old cousin Haydn Tanner (a future Wales captain) who was the scrum-half was credited with being mainly responsible for the Swansea win. The All Blacks captain is said to have retorted, "Tell them we have been beaten, but don't tell them it was by a pair of schoolboys"

Willie went North and turned to rugby league just before the war with Bradford Northern for whom he was extremely successful. He later played for both the Wales and Great Britain rugby league sides. Like many sportsmen of his generation the war cut across his playing career and Willie served in the RAF. He trained as a teacher and was one of our geography masters as well as coaching rugby. He died in 2002 in Sussex at the age of 86 and the great sports journalist Frank Keating wrote a wonderful obituary in which Phil Bennett spoke glowingly of Willie. The following year Willie was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.

Until I went to the grammar school I knew nothing of rugby, with football my winter game - I later played football at a mediocre semi-pro level but realised I didn't have the talent to make a fulltime career and gave up playing as the 'day job' made more and more demands. I was a decent schoolboy rugby player as a centre-threequarter or fullback and I played for Somerset under 17s but never played adult rugby although I've always followed it. I used to watch Bristol when I could from the 60s to the 80s after which my weekend sport was taken up watching my son play and then his son. My fellow centre at Weston Grammar School was John Coles who was a regular Bristol RFC first-teamer in the mid 1960s. He was a much better player than me of course and in truth a better footballer than me too when he put his mind to it.

If I had a schoolboy rugby hero it was 'Willie'. He was a gentleman in all respects to us schoolboys, and on the training pitch even in his forties was able to ghost past us with a feint or dip of the shoulder that was undetectable until he had gone past.

I am delighted to play this belated tribute to him.


Getting back to Bristol Bears (I still can't get used to the Bears part) I've never understood why such a prominent 20th Century club residing in a wealthy city failed to find a well-off backer when professionalism came on the scene in the 1980s, unlike Bath or Gloucester, or even Worcester with the latter at that time glad to get a game against Bristol United (the 2nd XV). In the early 'noughties' they had some relative success as Bristol Shoguns when sponsored by Mitsubishi but their finances then fell into a dreadful state. The owner of Oxford United Football Club wanted Bristol RFC to relocate there and share his football ground. Then when the rugby company was dissolved (but not the rugby club itself) their tenants Bristol Rovers bought the Memorial Stadium for a song, and still play there.

Probably because I’m a gas head I think the reason Steve lansdown invested in the rugby was so that he could have premiership sport at Ashton gate
I support all local sport and although City is my main football team I always like to see Rovers doing well - as long as it doesn't adversely affect City. The West Country has too few top sports teams. In fact, I saw Rovers play before I watched City when I was taken to see the Pirates as they were known in those days beat the then First Division Portsmouth 2-1 at Eastville Stadium before 36,000 spectators in the third round of the FA Cup in January 1955. I was still in short trousers.

Steve Lansdown went to Thornbury Grammar School, a rugby-playing school (or it was then if not now), and I believe in his early years rugby was his winter sport. It is sometimes said that his son Jon (now Bristol City's chairman) encouraged his interest in association football (I hate the term soccer) and that he looked at Rovers at one point when developing an interest in becoming part of a football club's board. Harry Dolman, the great post-war Bristol City chairman and club benefactor, whose factory was no more than a mile from Eastville Stadium, certainly enquired about becoming a Rovers director but received no encouragement so turned his attention to south of the river.

I agree that it was potentially a much easier job to get Bristol into the Premiership and then into Europe than to get Bristol City into the Premier League, and much less expensive. Nevertheless, Steve Lansdown does have a genuine interest in local sport and through his Bristol Sport company runs City, Bears, Bristol Flyers basketball, Bristol City Women FC, as well as individual sports people in less prominent sports. Apart from the major rebuild of Ashton Gate he has also spent considerable amounts of money on the Bears and City training bases, and a 4,000-seat arena is due to be built next to Ashton Gate for the Flyers and conferences.

The controversial aspect of his stewardship is that he is a 'tax exile' who now lives in Guernsey, although he frequently attends Bears and City matches, as does his wife Maggie who is also a great enthusiast for the rugby and football (subject to the number of days his tax exile status allows him onto the mainland, and currently the pandemic is a huge obstacle). His Hargreaves Lansdown co-founder, Peter Hargreaves (also a billionaire), still lives locally but has little if any interest in becoming involved with the football or rugby clubs. I've long thought that Peter Hargreaves would make a first-class city mayor for Bristol as an Independent. He is a blunt, no-nonsense Northerner who says it as it is.

I'm curious but do English rugby fans view winning this cup as a big achievement?
I think it's a bit like football with the FA Cup and League Cup or with the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. The FA Cup and EUFA Champions League, especially the latter, are the major prizes but the other two are there to be won if your team is in contention. The same applies with the European Rugby Champions Cup and its junior sibling the Challenge Cup.

Bristol were particularly keen to win it because, apart from running away with the Championship regular season title year after year, it's their first silverware of any note since 1983 when they beat Leicester in the final of the old John Player knock-out cup which was the only competitive competition for top English clubs at that time. They appeared as losing finalists twice more in the 1980s before the rot set in for Bristol as professionalism dawned.

Not only that, but as I said in my earlier post winning the Challenge Cup this season was part of Bristol Director of Rugby Pat Lam's path to turning Bristol into one of Europe's top clubs. It was definitely achievable and so it has proved. His aim is to win the Champions Cup within the next two years.

Speaking of the Champions Cup, many congratulations to Exeter Chiefs on deservedly winning that competition today. Their win over the Paris club Racing 92 was a fantastic match. Last night's Challenge Cup final was exciting but today's match topped it. So both European cups have been won by English teams this year and both from the South West with Exeter's win taking place at Ashton Gate.

Jerry - as a devoted Welsh rugby fan keep an eye on Callum Sheedy who at last seems to have declared his allegiance to Wales, although he has both English and Irish qualifications and has represented both these countries at various levels short of full competitive international status. At what point will he have to transfer to a Welsh club if he has serious Welsh international ambitions? I'm sure he has. Ioan Lloyd is another extremely talented and highly promising Welsh youngster currently in the Bristol Bears camp. Sheedy's West Country associations began with his attending Millfield School in Somerset and Lloyd went to Clifton College.
 

Jerry

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At what point will he have to transfer to a Welsh club if he has serious Welsh international ambitions? I'm sure he has. Ioan Lloyd is another extremely talented and highly promising Welsh youngster currently in the Bristol Bears camp.
Under the current rules if he's been capped and if he signs a new contract with a non Welsh team after receiving an offer from one of the Welsh pro teams he wouldn't be able to play for Wales. If there was no offer from a Welsh team he would be able to play for Wales. He'd also be eligible if it was just a contract extension on his current contract.
Wales does have quite a few potential players playing in England a lot attracted through schools like Hartpury college. You can't blame them for wanting to get a decent education both academic and rugby wise.
Winning the champions Cup in 2 years is a tough ask but without saracens it's made slightly easier!
 

TheLocalYokel

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Under the current rules if he's been capped and if he signs a new contract with a non Welsh team after receiving an offer from one of the Welsh pro teams he wouldn't be able to play for Wales. If there was no offer from a Welsh team he would be able to play for Wales. He'd also be eligible if it was just a contract extension on his current contract.
Wales does have quite a few potential players playing in England a lot attracted through schools like Hartpury college. You can't blame them for wanting to get a decent education both academic and rugby wise.
Winning the champions Cup in 2 years is a tough ask but without saracens it's made slightly easier!
Thank you for the eligibility explanation.

Winning the main European cup within the next two years is certainly a challenge but Pat Lam sets targets that have led some people (including me) to say "Oh yes" somewhat incredulously but he has been delivering. Two seasons ago Bristol were in the Championship, admittedly relegated from the Prem the previous season, so to finish third in the Prem and win the junior European cup within the next two seasons is an achievement.

It's true that the financial backing from the extremely wealthy owner has helped the club attract a coach like Lam and some top players, but they also recognise the potential of what is undoubtedly a 'sleeping giant' in the sport, and the giant has already begun to rouse itself.

Some people in the game wonder how Bristol can afford within the sport's salary cap to employ players such as Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra, Kyle Sinckler, Nathan Hughes and Steven Luatua a couple of whom at least are reputed to be amongst the highest paid rugby players in the world (although Piutau, Hughes and Luatua missed the Challenge Cup final; because of injury with the first two, whereas club captain Luatua was attending the birth of his daughter back in Bristol) . Part of it seems to be the use of the 'marquee player' system and judicious financial management. The club's owner made his immense fortune out of finance and can be relied upon to ensure that everything is done within the rules.

Of course, no-one can foresee accurately how the pandemic will impact the sport including the English Premiership. In June this year with the pandemic partly in mind the Prem club owners voted to reduce the salary cap with Bristol's owner a dissenting voice. Some say that attitude points to someone who wants to buy success on the field. It's difficult to refute that contention entirely although in fairness to him he won't make much money out of running professional sports clubs and, as a local man, has a genuine desire to bring top class sport to the Bristol area.

In the amateur ('shamateur') rugby union days of much of the previous century Bristol were one of the top clubs in the land. Most of their players were locally developed with the highly impressive Bristol Combination a valuable source of young players. It used to be said that in their great days of the first half of the 20th Century Yorkshire County Cricket Club only had to shout down a coal mine and a ready-made fast bowler would emerge. The same sort of thing was also said within rugby about Bristol RFC and the Bristol Combination.

The club has certainly developed and continues to develop a nucleus of young players, some of whom have shown that they have what it takes to go to the very top. If the salary cap does bite, bringing on young players will obviously become increasingly important for all clubs.

I wouldn't bet against Bristol Bears having a serious crack at the main European cup in the next two years, but you always need at least a modicum of luck to win anything in sport no matter how good you are.

I suppose Saracens will be out of the next two European Champion Cups: they are in the Championship in the coming season and although they will undoubtedly be back in the Prem the season after that they won't be able to qualify for that season's Champions Cup. Bristol have benefited from Saracens' situation as they have had Ben Earl and Max Malins on loan for part of the 2019-2020 season which, as I understand it, will continue during the 2020-2021 season. Both players have been hugely influential.
 

kfs

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Most of their players were locally developed
How many of the current Bristol squad are local or have risen through the academy system? It's difficult to see Mr Lansdown withdrawing his financial support in the near future, but when he does, the club will need a self-sustaining development set up.
What was most impressive about Exeter's win on Saturday was that almost half the match squad were locally developed players. Exeter's rise to the top over the past ten years was initially funded by Tony Rowe from his (far less substantial than Lansdown's) SW Comms fortune, and at that stage most of the players were imported nationally or internationally, and the locals who had always been the core of the Exeter team no longer featured. By establishing an excellent academy at Ivybridge and searching through the region for likely prospects Rob Baxter and his colleagues have created a structure which has the potential to ensure Exeter can remain a top club for the long term. I hope Bristol can do something similar. (And, of course, hope that Leicester implode and drop through the leagues!)
 

TheLocalYokel

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How many of the current Bristol squad are local or have risen through the academy system? It's difficult to see Mr Lansdown withdrawing his financial support in the near future, but when he does, the club will need a self-sustaining development set up.
What was most impressive about Exeter's win on Saturday was that almost half the match squad were locally developed players. Exeter's rise to the top over the past ten years was initially funded by Tony Rowe from his (far less substantial than Lansdown's) SW Comms fortune, and at that stage most of the players were imported nationally or internationally, and the locals who had always been the core of the Exeter team no longer featured. By establishing an excellent academy at Ivybridge and searching through the region for likely prospects Rob Baxter and his colleagues have created a structure which has the potential to ensure Exeter can remain a top club for the long term. I hope Bristol can do something similar. (And, of course, hope that Leicester implode and drop through the leagues!)
Seven or eight of the players who have featured fairly regularly in the Bristol first team this season can be said to be local players or locally developed as youngsters - the Welsh pair Sheedy and Lloyd for starters. You can't be more local than the big lock Joe Joyce from the huge Southmead estate in north Bristol with his strong Bristol accent bellowing across the pitch; he played many games for the club in the Championship having come through the academy and is now doing well in the Prem and is also a massive Bristol City supporter. Ellis Genge is another Bristol-developed player from a modest background who hails from the south Bristol estate of Knowle West. Reasons outside rugby led to his moving to Leicester Tigers and he is now an England international of course.There are others in the first team squad who also joined the club in their Championship days.

Pat Lam said at the outset that one of his major aims is to develop young England-qualified players, and the new world-class £11.5 million training complex at Abbots Leigh in North Somerset just across the Avon Gorge is testament to that. Steve Lansdown is certainly committed to seeing his three major teams succeed with the Bears' training complex, a new one for Bristol City nearing completion a mile or so from the Bears' facility plus a new 4,000-seat indoor arena next to Ashton Gate for his Bristol Flyers basketball team in the planning stage. He set up his Bristol Sport umbrella group to manage these teams and other local sporting interests. His son Jon is as keen as his father on the projects so in time might well be the driver going forward - he is already the chairman of Bristol City.

The Bears are the the likeliest to succeed as measured by national prominence. The Flyers could become the top team in their sport but basketball doesn't have the national focus in this country of rugby and football, and Bristol City even if they reached the Premier League are unlikely to be able to compete consistently with the Liverpools, the Manchesters and the top London teams.

The Bears' Achilles heel on the pitch can be their desire to run the ball from anywhere. Even in the Championship when they were walking away with a game there would be a lapse in concentration leading to opponents scoring two or three quick tries. That weakness has not been entirely eliminated during the Lam era but there are signs that the team is beginning to realise that it is sometimes necessary to 'win ugly' as the expression goes in football.

Rob Baxter has done an unbelievably good job at Exeter over a number of years. They are in my opinion unarguably the best side in the Prem at the moment. I note that Tony Rowe thinks Rob Baxter might be a contender for the England job when his current contract with Chiefs expires in 2023. It's a funny situation that in football managing a top club successfully is usually considered a greater accolade than managing a national team (the club job usually pays much better too and none of the current Home Nations football managers has ever managed a top football club), whereas in rugby the opposite seems to be the case in terms of status and qualification.

Whilst speaking of Exeter I believe that it would be a travesty if Bristol play the Chiefs in the play-off final. Exeter and Wasps are there on merit and if Wasps are forced out because of the virus the championship should go to Exeter. They finished top of the regular league anyway. Pat Lam doesn't want to play the match, neither does the majority of Bristol supporters it seems. If Bristol managed to beat Exeter they would not be real champions. Sports administrators getting it wrong yet again - no doubt with an eye to the tv money for the play-off final.

England club rugby in the South West is strong at the moment with South West clubs taking three of the top four places in the Premiership league table. I can safely say that situation will never occur in the football Premier League.

Incidentally, why have Leicester Tigers attracted your distaste? But for Saracens' fall from grace the Tigers might now be looking at a season in the Championship. I remember reading Martin Johnson's autobiography over a decade ago when he was advocating a ring-fenced Premiership. This meant that Bristol, then making one of their frequent visits to tier 2,, would be excluded. Johnson said that it was regrettable that a club with such a history and potential should be left out but that the South West was well represented in the Premiership by other clubs. I thought then that his attitude would have been different had Leicester been in tier 2 at the time.
 

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