Bristol Rugby’s re-introduction into Aviva Premiership Rugby may have got off to a tricky start, but Ross McMillan insists their fortunes are on the up as they continue to adapt to life in the top flight.
The Ashton Gate outfit were promoted back to the top flight last season after a seven-year absence, but have picked up just a solitary point from the first five fixtures of the new campaign.
Their latest defeat came on Friday as Saracens crossed the whitewash five times with no response to seal a 39-0 victory, as Bristol fell to their fifth consecutive loss.
But for McMillan, who joined Andy Robinson’s side in January 2015, positives can be taken from their journey so far, insisting the team are relishing the learning opportunities every game brings.
“We’ve been on a bit of a learning curve, a bit of a steep one as far as the teams we’ve played are concerned,” said the hooker. “When we got the fixture list through, we were aware of the fight we faced over the first five weeks.
“I think it’s just been a case of learning from mistakes, but also learning from what we’ve been doing well.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted to against Saracens, but at the same time, parts of our game are coming on, we are putting teams under pressure and not letting them do what they think they are going to be able to do against a side who have just been promoted.
“We’ve already played against sides who are potentially going to be in that top five challenging for honours at the top of the table come the end of the season, and it’s been almost a humbling experience as far as how sides have shown us how to play Aviva Premiership rugby.
“Scoring the tries that we have and starving teams of possession like we have has shown that we can play good rugby at this level, and that’s allowed us to move forward into this next block of games with a lot of positivity.”
Next up for Bristol is a trip to the north east on Saturday, where they face a Newcastle Falcons side eager to bring a spot of consistency to their season.
The Falcons currently lie eighth in the Aviva Premiership table with two victories to their name, but after a narrow loss to Worcester Warriors at Sixways on Sunday, will be keen to set the record straight when they welcome Bristol to Kingston Park this weekend.
But McMillan insists his side are ready for the challenge ahead, and is confident the time is nigh for Bristol to get their first win on the board.
“A lot of people are going to be billing this game as a relegation fight like they did for Worcester against Newcastle,” added the 29-year-old.
“But for us, it’s another intense battle from which we’ve got to come out on top. It’s the same mentality going into this game as it would be against anyone.
“Every Aviva Premiership game is a battle, and it’s whether we can play at that intensity and repeat that.
“It’s a game we’re very much looking forward to and are eager to get on with, and it’s a game that we feel is the next step as far as the development the squad.
“We’re confident we can get something from every game we play, we’ve always had the attitude that we’ll pick up points when we perform and when we can put our game into motion.
“We’re going into the game against Newcastle with confidence from the last five weeks. It’s a tough place to go but we’re going to see what we can get from the game.”