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Andy Robinson: Bristol can be patient over appointing new head coach

Published 07/07/2016

Bristol will mark their return to the Aviva Premiership after seven years with an opener against Harlequins at Twickenham
Bristol will mark their return to the Aviva Premiership after seven years with an opener against Harlequins at Twickenham

Andy Robinson has insisted Bristol do not need to rush into recruiting a new head coach for their long-awaited Aviva Premiership return.

Sean Holley left his head coaching role in June after helping guide Bristol back to England's top-flight for the first time in seven years.

Bristol will start their Premiership return by taking on Harlequins in the London double-header on Saturday, September 3.

Bristol only lost forwards specialist Steve Borthwick to England in December, but rugby director Robinson believes the west country club still boast a strong coaching ticket.

"Long-term we'll be looking for somebody to come in but it needs to be the right appointment," said former England head coach Robinson.

"But with Mark Bakewell leading the coaching at the moment across pre-season work, and having Dwayne Peel and Jonathan Thomas as attack and defence coach, Mark and my ability to unlock the knowledge that is there.

"These two guys have got phenomenal rugby knowledge, and it's unlocking that enthusiasm they've had to start with.

"Now we've got to unlock that knowledge so that our players can perform in our attacking and defensive games.

"The experience those two boys have had playing in the Premiership and also their rugby experience is as good as any. I'm going to unlock that, and that's the big challenge.

"Developing young players and coaches is why I'm in the game.

"It's great to be able to see the next crop of coaches come through, and the way they see the game.

"It's great to empower them to make decisions and with Mark and myself we're able to help them make those calls and to progress."

Bristol's keenly-anticipated Premiership return follows seven years battling to climb back to the top-flight, following relegation in 2009.

Robinson's side will not have long to wait to host their first league match of the season at their Ashton Gate home, taking on Northampton Saints on Sunday, September 11.

Robinson has challenged his inexperienced Bristol stars to "showcase their talents on the big stage", while also calling on the club's elder statesmen to guide those green youngsters through.

Former Wales playmaker Gavin Henson is among those charged to mentor as well as perform on the park, and Robinson believes the 34-year-old is now well-placed to do exactly that.

"Since we've signed him from Bath Gavin's been very good for the squad," said Robinson.

"He's worked very hard and he's been a first-class professional, a great pro, and he's come back in great shape.

"We didn't miss him in the play-off finals I'm pleased to say, because young Callum Sheedy stepped up, but he was only able to do so because of the guidance and support that Gavin had given him throughout the year.

"We wanted to keep as many of the squad together, so they have chances to perform.

"We've got a number of old heads, guys with international experience and recent Premiership experience.

"We've also got a number of young guys, who have done well in championship rugby but we don't really know how good they can be.

"So this is their opportunity to showcase their talents on the big stage.

"Having played in the Premiership and having coached in it I understand how tough it can be.

"For our guys we need them to embrace it, to take on every challenge that's there.

"They can't take a backward step.

"But if we can show some courage, fight to the end of every game, focus on ourselves in how we perform, then we'll get some success out of this season."

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