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Bristol Bears go back to attacking over winning as owner Steve Lansdown was ‘bored with rugby’

Pat Lam and Max Malins have revealed how a conversation with owner Steve Lansdown to go back to the exciting rugby of previous seasons helped to reset Bristol Bears’ season, with Lansdown telling Lam he was “bored of rugby, generally”.

Bristol’s loss to Connacht in the Champions Cup back in January forced the club to reflect, with Lansdown having his say as part of a review into the club’s form. Bristol have since won their last three Gallagher Premiership games against Bath, Northampton and Gloucester by an aggregate score of 142-89 and are back in the mix for the playoffs.

Malins said: “There was a period of reflection looking back at our first half of the season. If you watched us it wasn’t really ‘the Bears way’ that people associate with us, comparing it back to the year I was here on loan where we were more expansive, getting into the wide channels and doing more exciting things. We lost that a bit, I feel. There was a chat between coaches, players, also from Steve Lansdown, essentially that he wants to play exciting rugby, and we probably went away from that a little bit. It was a refocus to be the team we wanted to be.”

Malins added that Bristol had “shut up shop and shot ourselves in the foot” in the game with Connacht, losing 27-10, adding that after a red card to Josh Caulfield, Bristol “went within ourselves”.

Expanding on what has changed in recent weeks, Lam, who was hired by Lansdown seven years ago, added that Bristol’s owner had told the director of rugby to focus less on results and more on the style of play which made Lansdown, who also owns Bristol City Football Club, fall in love with the game.

Lam explained: “Steve was just saying he was bored of rugby, generally. Football is his game but when I arrived here, what I said I was going to bring to the game, he loved that and he fell in love with the game. All he did was say, ‘don’t worry about winning games at the moment. Of course, everyone wants you to win, but just go back to playing the way you told me you would when you arrived which made me fall in love with the game’. It was a conversation like that, rather than Steve throwing the stick. We have laughed about it a lot.

“I have been here seven years now. If I went to another place, what would I do and where would I start? I realised I had to go right back to square one here around our mindset and skills. Every team I’ve coached there has been a huge emphasis on skills. While we improved our kicking structures and chase, that is only part of the game and we got caught up a bit in that. We went right back to the way I like to play in the game, put some time into it. The Bath game (a 57-44 win) gave the boys a lot of confidence and then during the break we have worked a lot on the same stuff as when I first arrived.”

Jordan Crane, who was a player and captain under Lam and now works as the club’s defence coach, told Lam that he had noticed a change in the director of rugby’s demeanour on the training field since the club’s reset. “He said I can see a difference when you’re coaching this way. You’re buzzing, enjoying it.”

Bristol face Newcastle Falcons on Sunday looking for their fifth consecutive Premiership victory.

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