Bristol prepared and focused for Northampton challenge

Bristol Rugby Head Coach Richard Hill has opted for as much continuity as possible for the Guinness Premiership clash with Northampton Saints on Sunday, making just three changes to his starting line up.

The one change in the back line sees Ed Barnes return to the back line after recovering from a hamstring injury where he takes over at inside centre from Luke Eves.

Up front, Robert Sidoli replaces injured compatriot Nathan Budgett in the boiler room and Alfie To’oala comes in for Matt Salter on the blind side flank.

Of note on the bench is the inclusion of England international scrum half Shaun Perry for the first time this season.

After five weeks playing in the EDF Energy and European Challenge Cups, Hill acknowledges that the squad has been gearing up for the return to domestic action.”

“It’s been a long wait to get back to the Guinness Premiership. We’ve spent the past few weeks trying to fine tune our game and establish our best possible line up before going into the next phase of matches.”

“After the first five games, we need that time away from the league. We’ve done as much as we can in my view, all the players and coaches have worked very hard. We’ve changed what need to be changed and improved where we need to improve. But the proof will be in the performance against Northampton on Sunday.”

“Northampton have done well to get two wins from five in the Guinness Premiership and played well in the EDF Energy and European Challenge Cups.”

“Their confidence is naturally high and they have several players, as a result, selected for international duty this weekend. That’s what can happen.”

“It is a big game for us. A win can turn things around for us enormously. But it’s a big game for Northampton as well as they’ll be expecting to beat the team at the bottom of the table.”

On the subject of the need for support from the home crowd:

“It’s down to us really. It does help when you come out for the warm up and a big crowd greets you and vocal backing throughout the match is a big boost. But the onus is on us to play well and then the crowd will get behind us.”

“They’ve been terrific. We’ve won one from ten but they’ve been in full cry. We haven’t been losing by much and hopefully a little extra push will get our season going.”

Bristol Rugby:

Vunga Lilo; Tom Arscott, Neil Brew, Ed Barnes, David Lemi; Adrian Jarvis, Graeme Beveridge; Alex Clarke, Mark Regan, Jason Hobson; Roy Winters, Robert Sidoli; Alfie To’oala, Joe El Abd (capt), Dan Ward-Smith

Replacements:Scott Linklater, Darren Crompton, Mariano Sambucetti, Iain Grieve, Shaun Perry, Luke Eves, Mat Turner

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