TOP BAR - Fixtures

Crane excited for Bristol Bears opener against Bath Rugby

Crane excited for Bristol Bears opener against Bath Rugby

Jordan Crane cannot think of a better way for Bristol Bears to mark their return to the top flight than opening the new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season against Bath Rugby.

Newly-promoted Bristol will host their West Country rivals at Ashton Gate in the first game of the 2018/19 campaign on Friday August 31, with the drama scheduled to unfold from 7.45pm.

The Bears will then travel to Allianz Park in Round Two to face champions Saracens, before another highly-anticipated derby clash on the road against Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm.

It is a mouthwatering start for the new boys and Crane admits he is already relishing the opportunity to renew the club’s rivalry with Bath in front of a packed Ashton Gate crowd.

“This is what we’ve been looking forward to, we worked hard last season to get back in the Premiership so it’s good to see who we’re up against first,” he said.

“We couldn’t have dreamt for a better fixture to kick off the season, to be at home against Bath, I think that was one of our only highlights from the last time we were in the Premiership when we beat them at Ashton Gate.

“So to have that game first up and the opportunity to take on our biggest rivals at home is a great start for us and we’re really looking forward to it.

“Bath are an outstanding team and have some great players, so it will certainly test out where we are and how good we are in this league and it’s a great chance to set a benchmark down for us.

“It’s good to have the honour of playing the first game of the new season and what a way to start it, with a big derby, especially considering what it means to everyone.”

The 32-year-old back-rower joined the West Country outfit ahead of the 2016/17 season, when Bristol were relegated back to the Championship, after ten years with Leicester Tigers.

But having secured their return to the Premiership at the first opportunity under the guidance of head coach Pat Lam, Crane is confident Bristol have learnt from their past mistakes.

“We have been back in pre-season and did a four-week block from the start of June and had the luxury of finishing a little early compared to everyone else, so we got some good work in,” he said.

“We have had the opportunity to rest as well and the new guys are settling in well so we’re pretty optimistic about what we can do this season.

“I think we’ve learnt from our mistakes last time and we’re a lot more settled with Pat and all the other coaches, embedding what they wanted us to do last season under less spotlight.

“We’re definitely in a better situation this time around and I hope that shows on the field.”

Crane is aware Bristol face a tough task if they are to stay in the Premiership, with promoted teams only avoiding relegation 50 per cent of the time since the Championship was formed in 2009/10.

But while the Bears have had extra time to prepare, without the stress of the play-offs to concern them, Crane is adamant that the club will adhere to the adage of taking each game as it comes.

“I think we will address our aims week-on-week, there’s no point coming up and saying we want to do X and then losing a couple of games and it becomes completely different,” he said.

“We will just take the season as it comes, game by game, and see where we end up. We want to be looking up that table and seeing how far we can go.

“The thing is with the Premiership, there are no easy games, there are no teams who you think you can target that as every single week it is big game after big game.”

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