Bristol Rugby

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Bristol Rugby
Bristol rugby.PNG
Full name Bristol Rugby Football Club
Union Rugby Football Union
Founded 1888; 126 years ago (1888)
Location Bristol, England
Ground(s) Memorial Ground (Capacity: 12,100)
CEO Steve Gorvett
Coach(es) England Andy Robinson
Captain(s) England James Grindal
League(s) Greene King IPA Championship
2012–13 5th
Official website

Bristol Rugby are a rugby union club based in Bristol, England. The club currently plays in the RFU Championship and competes in the British and Irish Cup. They rely in large part on the many junior rugby clubs in the region, particularly those from 'the Combination'. Significant players it has produced have include Tom Richards, who played for both the British Isles and Australia, Sam Tucker, John Blake, John Pullin and Alan Morley. In the professional era several international stars have played for Bristol, including Argentina's Agustín Pichot and Felipe Contepomi, Jason Little, double World Cup winner with Australia, Springbok Henry Honiball and Gareth Llewellyn, who until 2007 was the most-capped player for Wales.


Formation and early history[edit]

Bristol Football Club was formed in 1888 when the Carlton club merged with rival club Redland Park to create a united Bristol team. Westbury Park having refused to merge then folded and many of its players subsequently joined Bristol. The County Cricket Ground at Nevil Road was leased for home matches.

The first match was a heavy away defeat to Cardiff and although the first season was relatively successful the second was not with only three games won. The club went from strength to strength over the next few years under the captaincy of W. Tommy Thomson. It turned the corner and in 1891–92, now wearing the more familiar navy and white hooped shirts, the Bristol team won twenty games out of twenty four.

Over the ensuing seasons the fixture list went from strength to strength, consisting of most of the top English and Welsh sides. In 1900 J. W. Jarman became Bristol's first England cap. Two major touring sides played Bristol during this period. The first New Zealand All Blacks defeated the club 41 – 0 in 1905 and in 1909 a combined Bristol and Clifton RFC team, captained by Percy Down, lost to Australia 11 – 3.

World Wars[edit]

The club was beginning to bring on a new generation of players when the First World War halted all rugby. After the war a Bristol United side was formed to provide rugby for returning servicemen and this led to the rebirth of Bristol in 1919. The County Ground was no longer available for home games so the club rented a field at Radnor Road, Horfield although occasional matches were staged at the Bristol City and Bristol Rovers grounds. The Radnor Road seasons were good ones for the club and a new crop of stars appeared.

The Memorial Ground stadium was built on an area of land called Buffalo Bill's Field which was previously occupied by allotments in 1921. Bristol defeated Cardiff 19 – 3 in the opening match in front of a large crowd.

The fiftieth anniversary was celebrated in 1938 but the next few years saw a fall in performances and the final inter-war season was a poor one. During World War II a Bristol Supporters team kept rugby union going in the city. Thus Bristol had readily available players when peacetime rugby union resumed in 1945.


The playing record in the early fifties was mixed, but there was a huge improvement under the captaincy of first Bert MacDonald, and then Dick Hawkes. Records were broken in 1956–57 and even better was to follow in what has been called 'The Blake Era'.

Fly half John Blake became captain in 1957 and under his leadership the club developed an entertaining running style of rugby involving backs and forwards, which was years ahead of its time. The Bristol club set and broke new records for wins in a season and points scored and goal kicking forward Gordon Cripps rewrote the individual points scoring records.

1960s to 1980s[edit]

The 75th anniversary was celebrated in 1962–63 and floodlights were installed in the following season. Club form peaked in 1965–66 under Derek Neate's captaincy when 39 games were won, and again in 1971–72 under Tony Nicholls. This was the club's best ever season with a thousand points being scored for the first time and the team being crowned unofficial English and Anglo-Welsh champions.

Under Mike Rafter's captaincy, the club won the John Player Cup in 1983, defeating Leicester 28–22. During this period Alan Morley established a world record of 479 tries in senior rugby. The centenary season with Nigel Pomphrey as captain was celebrated in style with a game against the Barbarians and a narrow defeat in the cup final, but thereafter there was a gradual decline in playing standards. The team did not really adapt well to the demands of league rugby and the club's administrators struggled to cope with the professional set up.


In 1996, Bristol Rovers moved into the Memorial Stadium as tenants of Bristol Rugby, and soon took joint ownership of the stadium through the Memorial Stadium Company.

1998/99 (Allied Dunbar Premership Two)
Relegation to Premiership Two in 1998 was not the worst of Bristol's problems. Only an eleventh hour rescue by Malcolm Pearce saved the club from potential oblivion. Bristol also lost control of the Memorial Stadium Company to Bristol Rovers and have been tenants ever since. Bristol's first season outside the top flight brought with it a number of first-time visits to clubs. Bristol went on to win the Premiership Two title and promotion back to Premiership One, sealing the win with a 22–11 victory over Worcester.


1999–00 (Allied Dunbar Premiership)
The World Cup disrupted the early part of the 1999–2000 season, with Henry Honiball (South Africa), Agustín Pichot and Eduardo Simone (Argentina), Garath Archer (England), Jamie Mayer (Scotland), Al Charron (Canada) and Pablo Lemoine (Uruguay) all missing the first few games. Under the captaincy of Dean Ryan the team played some of the most entertaining rugby seen at the Memorial Stadium. There were thrilling victories over Saracens, a late winner away at Northampton and a breathtaking 31–31 draw with Bath. The team eventually finished sixth, just missing out on European Cup qualification.

2000–01 (Zurich Premiership)
During the close season, Dean Ryan took over as Head Coach from Bob Dwyer, and new signings included, Ben Sturnham from Bath, Leigh Davies from Cardiff and Neil McCarthy from Gloucester. After an opening day victory over newly promoted Rotherham, Bristol had a disappointing 2000–01 season finishing ninth. The team lost their first three Premiership games before turning their season around with a run of ten home matches without defeat, including wins over champions Leicester Tigers, and West Country rivals Bath. The turning point coincided with the arrival of Argentine international fly-half, Felipe Contepomi who started to forge an unstoppable half-back partnership with countryman Agustín Pichot. Off the field, Jack Rowell became managing director, successful community initiatives saw the attendance figures rise.

Bristol playing Northampton during the 2007–08 Premiership.

2001–02 (Zurich Premiership)
The 2001–02 season brought a new name, Bristol Shoguns, thanks to the record breaking five-year £2 million sponsorship deal with motoring giants Mitsubishi Motors. The team also saw the arrival of some of the game's most promising young talent, as well experienced internationals Julian White and double world cup winning centre, Jason Little. Despite a mixed start, supporters at the Memorial Stadium witnessed some breathtaking rugby during the second half of the season. With the Shoguns finishing the season with the most bonus points in the Zurich Premiership, three players in the top try scorers chart, a place at Twickenham in the final of the Zurich Championship, and also a place in the Heineken Cup for the 2002–03 season.

One of the key turning points of the season was the arrival of former All Blacks selector Peter Thorburn. The ex-North Harbour coach joined in late February for the remainder of the season. His fresh input coupled with the experience of Dean Ryan and his coaching team helped bring out the best in the Shoguns. In the remaining fixtures the Shoguns started to open up defences and put the points on the board, including 47 against Sale Sharks, 40 against Gloucester and 38 against recently crowned champions Leicester Tigers. The great run of results led to the Shoguns securing a top eight finish and a place in the quarter-final of the Zurich Championship at Welford Road with qualification for the lucrative Heineken Cup up for grabs. The Shoguns didn't disappoint in the Zurich Championship when they demolished the Tigers 27–13 in the quarter-final and then Northampton Saints 32–24 in the semi-final.

2002–03 (Zurich Premiership)
The 2002–03 season was greeted with huge excitement by the Bristol faithful. Several months later, the club would be staring at oblivion. The cracks started to appear in the close season in the summer of 2002. Head Coach Dean Ryan moved to Gloucester, Jack Rowell resigned as Director of Rugby whilst skipper Jason Little retired. Peter Thorburn took over as coach and claimed that the team were several weeks behind in their preseason preparations. The team lost their opening four Zurich Premiership fixtures. An amazing 14-man win over Leicester was followed by a first foray into the Heineken Cup and a superb, televised win over Montferrand was the highlight. League form was mixed but there were more wins than defeats including a momentous first league win away at Bath. But Christmas saw a bombshell; owner Malcolm Pearce announced that he would quit at the end of the season. Worse was to follow as it became clear that the club's existence was under threat as first, rumours began to circulate that Bristol could be sold to Firoz Kassam and play out of Oxford. Then, to the horror of Bristolians, it became apparent that a merger with bitter rivals Bath had been mooted. Although neither event came to pass, Bristol were relegated at the end of the season as off field distractions took their toll.

2003–04 (National Division One)
In 2003 with Bristol at rock bottom Martin Haag and a week later Richard Hill joined as first team coach and head coach respectively. While the board were raising money to stabilise the club Haag and Hill implemented a '3-year plan' to rebuild Bristol and put them back in the Premiership.

2004–05 (National Division One)
They succeeded and within two years Bristol were promoted back to the Guinness Premiership in 2005 after winning National League One in style.

The club's deal with Mitsubishi expired on 31 July 2005, and the club is once again known as Bristol Rugby Football Club.

2005–06 (Guinness Premiership)
Many pundits had tipped Bristol as relegation certainties in 2005–06, but they defied the critics with some strong performances. A surprise home victory to local rivals Bath was followed by a win away at Newcastle but these September wins were followed by a fallow period in the Guinness Premiership until the visits from Leeds Tykes and Sale Sharks in November. Leicester Tigers were also surprise losers at the Memorial Ground in December, and Bristol morale got a lift when they secured a draw against high-flying London Wasps in February. The season was capped by away victories over Saracens and Gloucester and a decisive home win against Newcastle Falcons in April. Some individual players stood out: winger David Lemi surprised many defences with his speed and agility, Brian Lima proved tough to beat at centre, fly-half Jason Strange had an impressive goal-kicking record and scrum-half Shaun Perry had been called up to captain England Saxons by the season's end on the strength of play at Bristol. Among the forwards Mark Regan and Dan Ward-Smith imposed themselves on the opposition, while flanker Matt Salter was arguably the side's most important player and was awarded the Guinness Premiership's 'Captain of the Year' by Sky Sports at an end of year awards ceremony.

At the end of the 2005–06 season, Shaun Perry was called into the England squad for the two-test Cook Cup series against Australia. However a late-diagnosed fractured wrist, sustained against Newcastle, ruled him out for eight weeks and the consequent tour.

2006–07 (Guinness Premiership)
Perry was then named in the 2006–07 Elite Playing Squad, the first Bristol player to appear in the squad since its creation. He was shortly followed into the squad by team mate Dan Ward-Smith, who missed out on the 2007 Six Nations, after dislocating his kneecap in a Guinness Premiership game against Northampton.

Bristol elected to play two 2006–07 games at Ashton Gate, home of football side Bristol City. The local derby against Bath and the game against Premiership giants Leicester were moved from the 11,750 capacity Memorial Stadium to Ashton Gate's 21,500 capacity to allow more fans the chance to watch the team. The precedent for this was established for a crucial relegation fixture against Bath in May 2003.

As well as two league wins against rivals Bath Rugby in the 2006–07 season, Bristol defeated Gloucester at home with a last-ditch drop-goal by fly-half Jason Strange.

Bristol finished third in the league, securing a Heineken Cup place for only the second time, and then reached the semi-finals of the play-offs, losing 26–14 at Leicester.

Martin Haag was released as Bristol's forwards coach in June 2007[1] and replaced by John Brain.[2]

2007–08 (Guinness Premiership)
Bristol could not replicate the success of the previous season and ended the 2007–08 season in 9th place. They also failed to progress from their Heineken Cup group, despite a memorable home win against Stade Français.

2008–09 (Guinness Premiership)
Following a season of financial difficulties in which Bristol won only two games, they were relegated from the Guinness Premiership at the end of the 2008–09 season after losing 38–21 to London Irish on Saturday 4 April.[3]

Richard Hill stepped down as coach in February 2009, with two months and eight games of the season remaining.[4] Paul Hull took over as Bristol's head coach.

Summary of league positions[edit]

Summary of Bristol's league positions since league rugby was introduced in 1987.[5]

Season League Final league position End of season
1987–88 Courage League 9th n/a
1988–89 Courage League 7th n/a
1989–90 Courage League 9th n/a
1990–91 Courage League 11th (of 13) n/a
1991–92 Courage League 10th (of 13) n/a
1992–93 Courage League 6th (of 13) n/a
1993–94 Courage League 4th (of 10) n/a
1994–95 Courage League 6th (of 10) n/a
1995–96 Courage League 6th (of 10) n/a
1996–97 Courage League 9th n/a
1997–98 Premiership 12th Relegated
1998–99 Division One 1st Promoted
1999–2000 Premiership 6th n/a
2000–01 Premiership 9th n/a
2001–02 Premiership 8th n/a
2002–03 Premiership 12th Relegated
2003–04 Division One 9th n/a
2004–05 Division One 1st Promoted
2005–06 Premiership 11th n/a
2006–07 Premiership 3rd n/a
2007–08 Premiership 9th n/a
2008–09 Premiership 12th Relegated
2009–10 Championship 1st n/a
2010–11 Championship 8th n/a
2011–12 Championship 1st n/a
2012–13 Championship 5th n/a

Current squad[edit]

2013/14 Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Ross Johnson Hooker Wales Wales
Rhys Lawrence Hooker Wales Wales
Ollie Hayes Hooker England England
Stuart McInally (loan) Hooker Scotland Scotland
James Hall Prop England England
Jason Hobson Prop England England
Bruce Douglas Prop Scotland Scotland
Mark Lilley Prop England England
Kyle Traynor Prop Scotland Scotland
Gastón Cortes Prop Argentina Argentina
Ben Glynn Lock England England
Mariano Sambucetti Lock Argentina Argentina
Glen Townson Lock England England
Mark Sorenson Lock New Zealand New Zealand
Redford Pennycook Flanker England England
Iain Grieve Flanker England England
Marco Mama Flanker England England
Ross Rennie (loan) Flanker Scotland Scotland
Ben Skirving Number 8 England England
Nick Köster Number 8 South Africa South Africa
Player Position Union
Luke Baldwin Scrum-half England England
Ruki Tipuna Scrum-half New Zealand New Zealand
James Grindal (c) Scrum-half England England
Adrian Jarvis Fly-half England England
Tristan Roberts Fly-half England England
Nicky Robinson Fly-half Wales Wales
Fautua Otto Centre Samoa Samoa
Luke Eves Centre England England
Ben Mosses Centre England England
Andy Short Centre England England
Bryan Rennie Centre Scotland Scotland
George Watkins Wing Scotland Scotland
Charlie Amesbury Wing England England
Sammy Speight Wing Fiji Fiji
Jack Tovey Wing Ireland Ireland
Errie Claassens Fullback South Africa South Africa
Adam D'Arcy Fullback Australia Australia
Jack Wallace Fullback England England


Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Will Davis Prop England England
Ellis Genge Prop England England
Joe Joyce Lock Ireland Ireland
Mitch Eadie Flanker Scotland Scotland
Steve Uren Flanker England England
Player Position Union
Callum Braley Scrum-half England England
Nick Carpenter Centre England England
Ryan Edwards Wing England England
Auguy Slowik Wing England England
Jack Hughes Fullback England England

Internationally capped players[edit]


First team

  • Director of Rugby – Andy Robinson
  • First Team Coach – Sean Holley
  • Forwards Coach – Matthew Ferguson
  • Team Manager – John Harrison

Medical & fitness

  • Head Physiotherapist – Daniel Martin
  • Physiotherapist – Jon Hill
  • Sports Therapist – Kate Rehill
  • Team Doctors – Jonathan Williams & Jo Probert
  • Head of Strength & Conditioning – Lee Douglas
  • Assistant Strength & Conditioning – Andrew Petts


  • Academy Manager – Mike Hall
  • Academy Coach – Matthew Sherratt
  • Academy Strength & Conditioning Coach – Thomas Hargroves


  • Chief Executive Officer – Steve Gorvett
  • Business Support Director – John Portch
  • Communications Officer – Nicol McClelland
  • HR Manager – Nikki Locke
  • Community Manager – Ben Breeze
  • Community Marketing Manager – Katie Breeze
  • HR & Financial Assisant – Lesley Duvenage
  • Financial Controller – Alec Bellamy
  • Ticketing and Retail Manager – Steve Gray
  • Ticketing Assistant – Louise Sharp
  • Commercial Manager – Suzanne Roper

Transfers 2014-15[edit]

Players In[edit]

Players Out[edit]

Club honours[edit]

  • Powergen Shield Champions 2004

Notable former players[edit]

See also Category:Bristol Rugby players


  1. ^ "Martin Haag departs as Bristol Rugby Forwards Coach". 15 June 2007. 
  2. ^ "John Brain Joins Bristol Rugby Coaching Staff". 15 June 2007. 
  3. ^ "London Irish 38–21 Bristol". The BBC. 4 April 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  4. ^ "Richard Hill leaves Bristol Rugby". 27 February 2009. 
  5. ^ "English league results". 
  6. ^ "Bristol sign Dwayne Peel and Anthony Perenise". BBC Sport. 7 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Bristol sign Dwayne Peel and Anthony Perenise". BBC Sport. 7 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "David Lemi returns to Bristol". Bristol Post. 4 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "Nick Koster signs permanent deal to join Bristol from Bath". Bristol Post. 5 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Jack O'Connell and Darren Hudson to leave Leinster for Bristol". Irish Independent. 5 March 2014. 
  11. ^ "Bristol snap up Saracens hooker Max Crumpton". Bristol Post. 5 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Bristol sign Samoan flanker Jack Lam from Super Rugby club Hurrcianes". Bristol Post. 5 March 2014. 
  13. ^ "Bristol swoop for Leeds Carnegie scrum-half Craig Hampson". Bristol Post. 5 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Bristol complete signing of Welsh fly-half Matthew Morgan". Bristol Post. 5 March 2014. 
  15. ^ "Bristol sign Wales forward Ryan Jones from Ospreys". BBC Sport. 24 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "Bristol winger George Watkins to join Cardiff Blues next season". BBC Sport. 24 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "Bristol flanker James Merriman retirement". BBC Sport. 4 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Newcastle Falcons sign scrum-half Ruki Tipuna from Bristol". Sky Sports. 28 March 2014. 

External links[edit]