Eves at ease as Bristol suffer

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The Independent Online
The long-suffering followers of Bristol Rugby Club will not find the thought remotely amusing as they contemplate the potential horrors of tonight's excruciatingly edgy play-off first leg at Bedford, but one of the finest Memorial Grounders of them all is rather enjoying life amid the paranoia.

Derek Eves, a record-breaking captain with the West Country giants between 1990 and 1995, believes his Coventry outfit, equipped as they are with five former Bristol first-teamers, can turn the league pecking order on its head by seeing off London Irish in the parallel play-off at Coundon Road. Eves is not a vindictive type, but he will allow himself the luxury of a quiet chuckle should the two clubs in his life pass each other going in opposite directions.

"We have spent the whole season working towards this, we are looking for victory in both home and away matches and as far as tonight is concerned, we have no intention of giving ourselves a mountain to climb when we go to Irish for the return leg at the weekend," he said.

Bristol are so aware of the threat posed by Bedford at Goldington Road that they allowed their two Lions forwards, Mark Regan and Simon Shaw, extra time to recover from injuries sustained in England's Triple Crown match with Wales in March. Both will play, as will Martin Corry, the captain, who has also suffered fitness problems of late.

The home side, who finished fourth in Courage League Two to secure their promotion tilt against the ninth-placed side in the top flight, include the former Welsh full-back Mike Rayer, the World Cup-winning Springbok No 8 Rudi Straeuli and a certain Martin Offiah.

Bath yesterday announced that Dan Lyle, their outstanding American No 8, had signed a new four-year contract. The US Eagles captain is firmly in the frame to lead them next season.