- Former England and Scotland head coach approaches first full Championship season
- “If you can handle the pressure, you become a successful side” – Robinson
Bristol Rugby boss Andy Robinson is delighted to be back into the day-to-day cycle of club coaching and wants to reward his club’s ambition by winning promotion from the Greene King IPA Championship this season.
Former England and Scotland head coach Robinson took up his role at the Memorial Stadium in February, but could not quite guide Bristol to a play-off place – eventually finishing fifth on the league ladder, just two points adrift of semi-finalists Leeds Carnegie.
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However, bolstered by some astute signings, such as former Wales international fly half Nicky Robinson from London Wasps, the West Country outfit can be confident of an improved campaign.
Indeed, mindful of the local supporters’ collective enthusiasm – as well as the desire and know-how of those above him – their director of rugby is going to be setting some high standards.
“In January I met with Chris Booy the chairman,” Robinson said. “He talked to me about the vision he had for Bristol Rugby – the structure of the club and some of the players there – and I went away for a couple of weeks and thought about it.
“I realised it was a great opportunity for me to get back into coaching at a club with the ambition of being at the top table. To be able to start at a Championship club and grow it was something that really attracted me.
“Also, I know the Bristol supporters from when I was a Bath man, playing and coaching against them for so many years. In understand what it means to the people in the area and the Bristol supporters are tremendous.
“The fact that an average of 5,000 people come to the Memorial Stadium in the Championship just goes to show that.”
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While admitting that an 11-year career as a Bath back-rower does still earn him some light-hearted heckling from the Bristol faithful, Robinson feels very settled in his current post.
Still, he is also aware that the honeymoon period is over. When the new campaign begins on Sunday with a tough tussle against Cornish Pirates at Sandy Park as part of the Championship’s 1 Big Rugby Weekend – thrusting all 12 clubs into action in a triple bill of double-headers around the country – wins are essential.
“Like all things, the proof is in how we play – the performances we put in and the results we get,” explained the 49 year-old. “That is what you are judged on.
“The beauty of coaching in the Championship is that the next game comes around very quickly. At international level, you are judged on 10 games and everyone has an opinion the performance, the selection, the result. You very much have to win those games.
“Here, it is more about the development of players, the structure of the season and growing a squad that I believe can get back into the Premiership.”
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Praising the Championship as a prolific breeding ground for youngster, Robinson outlined the relationship between Saracens and Bedford Blues, who have groomed many players – British and Irish Lion Owen Farrell among them –through their dual-registration programme.
But as well as developing his squad, promotion back to the top tier is a key goal for Bristol’s director of rugby.
“That’s the aim for everyone involved at the club and, you’d hope, everyone involved in the Championship, too,” Robinson concluded. “All the teams and their supporters want that.
“You’ve got to take a look at Exeter and what they have done over the past few years. I thought London Welsh did well in the Premiership last year, too – they really added to the division.
“I like the pressure, and putting that on the players. We’ve got to enjoy the pressure, because if you can handle it you can become a successful side. The more pressure the better for me.”