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Tom Varndell determined to embrace chance to boost Bristol out of basement

Bristol will move out of the Aviva Premiership basement if they beat Harlequins on Friday - and wing Tom Varndell has described it as "a massive opportunity".

The West Country club's fortunes have been revived by head coach Mark Tainton, and an Ashton Gate success against Quins would see them climb above 11th-placed Worcester before the Warriors host Saracens on Saturday.

Not only are Quins without the likes of Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Joe Marler, Jack Clifford and Jamie Roberts, they have yet to win a Premiership away game this season.

"Our main focus has been Quins for the last couple of weeks," Varndell said.

"There are no excuses this week, as everything has been geared towards Friday night.

"We know it is a massive game for us in terms of Premiership survival.

"We have to see this as a massive opportunity, and we need to pick up some points if we want to be here next year.

"Quins are a very quick team and they really like to play attacking rugby. We have got to be alive to them because they play off-the-cuff rugby and we can't allow them to do that.

"They beat us at Twickenham in our first game back in the Premiership (in September), and we were right at the top of our game. To lose was a sucker punch, and I think that if we had won that game then we could have gone on a run.

"Friday is a chance to prove we can win these games and play well in the Premiership."

Varndell, meanwhile, is one touchdown short of setting a new all-time Premiership try-scoring record, which would see him break Mark Cueto's career total of 90.

Cueto's former club Sale have found themselves dragged into the relegation dogfight following a run of six successive defeats, which makes Friday's home encounter against Newcastle a crucial fixture.

"It's a must-win, as all our league games are, with Bristol picking up points and Worcester beating Harlequins in the previous round of fixtures," Sale rugby director Steve Diamond said.

"It is close at the bottom of the league, but we've just got to win and not worry about anyone else around us. If we win our home games, we will be alright.

"I am just looking at winning each week, nothing else. Our mentality for Friday is that it will be a really hard game.

"They (Newcastle) have been playing really well, and they've changed the way they play a bit."

Friday's other Premiership game sees Bath meeting Recreation Ground visitors Northampton, with a victory for Bath meaning they would overtake third-placed Exeter.


From Belfast Telegraph