Pat Lam says watching Michael Jordan has given Bristol the Bear necessities
Bristol rugby boss Pat Lam says Michael Jordan has so inspired his players that he expects them to come out of lockdown with better skills than they went in.
Ten weeks without games has put the onus on individuals to stay on top of fitness, strength and the basics of the game so that as soon as the green light comes they can quickly get back to where they left off.
Bristol are third in the Premiership and have firm ambitions to become English champions when the season restarts, in whatever form that takes.
And Lam admits: “I am so excited to see the boys’ skills, because skills need time and prep – and they have got time.
“I am expecting better line-out throwers, better goal-kickers, better passers, and a lot of variety. There is no excuse at all to come back and your skills are rusty, because you have had all this time which, as Michael Jordan demonstrated on The Last Dance , is what you need.
“I couldn’t have thought of a better series for them to put on TV at this time. It has lifted everybody. The boys all realise, ‘Okay, I have got to go to that level’.”
Bristol refuse to jump the gun and return to training before Premiership Rugby give them permission, despite Sale appearing to have gone early by holding a session on Monday.
But Lam insists “we are ready to go” and Bears chief executive Mark Tainton added that lockdown had not remotely diminished their appetite.
“We want to win trophies and eventually be one of the most dominant teams in Europe,” he said. “We’re not shying away from saying that.”
They further demonstrated their ambition yesterday with the signing of Hull rugby league winger Ratu Naulago, 28, who joins a team that by July will boast Charles Piutau, Kyle Sinckler and Semi Radradra
While permanent pay cuts are set to be imposed on players at a number of Premiership clubs, Bristol insist the salary cap must not be reduced if England’s top flight is to retain its attraction.
“We’re on an upwards curve and we don’t believe we should go to the lowest denominator,” said Tainton. “We believe every club should manage their own business according to what they can afford to do.
“If you look at Leicester City a couple of years ago. No-one can tell me Leicester City had the same budget as Man City or Man Utd, however through good management and good play they won the Premier League.
“There are people in difficulty and we understand that, but if we take a step back now will we ever take a step forward again, or will we just become not the best league in the world?
“Will the other leagues overtake us and will they take the best players away from us and with that will they take the TV revenue away. I think we need push on, to try and make this league as best we can.”
With Premiership bosses considering playing the final nine rounds of matches at just one or two grounds, Bristol have put their Ashton Gate home forward.
Lam believes his team could resume playing in four weeks and the club has devised a ‘one way’ return-to-training protocol.
“The guys would be scheduled at a certain time,” he said. “Five guys, come in for an hour, changed and ready to go, keeping their distance led by the strength and conditioning coaches or physios.
"As coaches we are prepared for whether they stay two metres apart, if they all have a rugby ball, whether they are allowed to pass to each other.
"Then they move to the far side of the building to jump in their cars and head off, while the next guys come in and we wipe down all the equipment.”
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