Steven Luatua returns to lead Bristol in Friday evening’s GKIPA Championship match away to Yorkshire Carnegie, kick off 8 pm, after being left on the bench throughout last week’s win over Rotherham Titans.
Bristol head coach Pat Lam said that Luatua had been fitting fit and raring to go for the Titans match, if required, after taking a knock playing for the Barbarians at Twickenham the previous week against fellow New Zealand countrymen.
The inclusion of Luatua is one of six changes for what Lam is anticipating a much stiffer opposition at Headingley than that provided in the 55-10 demolition of Titans, the basement side, last weekend.
“I’ve told the players that I know from experience that it can be tough in Yorkshire in November; not just weather-wise but also they are physically tough men. So we will need to be prepared mentally to go physically on Friday night,” said Lam
“We totally respect a team, regardless of where they are in the table, so we have to be prepared correctly otherwise we will get rolled over. Carnegie are unbeaten this season at home in all competitions.
“We’ve tended to focus on their home games because there is a difference and it’s a bit of cauldron at Headingley. The crowd definitely gives them a lift but if we get our preparation and focus right and play as a team, we’ve got a good chance of winning.”
Jordan Williams and Ian Madigan return, while Jack Tovey is set for his first league start since September. International duo Ryan Bevington and Gaston Cortes come into the front row as Bristol go in search of a ninth straight league victory.
Bristol are unbeaten in the Championship this season and five points clear of Ealing Trailfinders who were 44-19 home winners last time out over Yorkshire Carnegie who are sixth in the table going into this weekend’s round of matches.
George Watkins starts on the wing for Carnegie having joined them from Jersey Reds at the start of the season and having scored has scored 66 tries in his two spells at Bristol either side of a brief time with Cardiff Blues
Carnegie make two changes with Louis Brown starting on the wing, so Chris Elder reverts to centre for the injured Andy Forsyth (knee) with Charlie Beech at tighthead prop following the end of Elliot Millar-Mills’ loan arrangement.
Yorkshire Carnegie (home v Bristol, Friday, 8 pm): Stevie McColl; George Watkins, Chris Elder, Tom Casson, Louis Brown; Pete Lucock, Will Homer; Marc Thomas, Joe Buckle, Charlie Beech, Jack Whetton, Mike Myerscough, Richard Beck, Richard Mayhew (c), Ollie Stedman. Reps: Harry Newborn, Charlie Capps, James Thraves, Ben West, Josh Bainbridge, Oliver Fox, Fred Burdon.
Bristol: Jordan Williams; Luke Morahan, Jack Tovey, Tusi Pisi, Tom Varndell; Ian Madigan, Andy Uren; Ryan Bevington, Ross McMillan, Gaston Cortes, Joe Joyce, Sam Jeffries, Steven Luatua (c), Dan Thomas, Jordan Crane. Reps: Ben Gompels, Soane Tonga’uiha, Nicky Thomas, Joe Batley, Rhodri Williams, Callum Sheedy, Will Hurrell.