Rugby Union: Dwyer to reshape Bristol

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The Independent Online
SHOWING THAT he has lost none of the self-belief which he employed to such lasting effect when he coached Australia to victory in the 1991 World Cup, Bob Dwyer is already talking a good fight after just two days as Bristol's director of rugby.

Within days of the financially stricken club being rescued by a local millionaire, Malcolm Pearce, Dwyer was put in charge of playing affairs - just six months after being sacked from a similar position at Leicester.

With the former England manager Jack Rowell also installed as a non-executive director, Dwyer turned his attention to the task of restoring Bristol to the top flight of the Allied Dunbar Premiership at the earliest opportunity.

And even though he faces a few immediate battles to persuade several players to stay with Bristol, he was quick to praise their professionalism after months of financial uncertainty, lost wages and receivership.

"We had all the players in on Friday except for one who's on holiday. At the moment we have a squad of about 35 players. Only 26 or so have first-team experience, but some of them are players of proven pedigree like Robert Jones, Paul Burke, Al Charron and Paul Hull, while the rest are youngsters.

"We're very pleased with their attitude. It's been spot on even though they haven't been paid and have been training on their own. We've got a lot to do to get them ready for the new season and very little time in which to do it, but they don't look in bad shape to me."

"The new management have made a commitment to pay the players in full from the beginning of this month, and Malcolm is meeting each one of them to sort out whatever problems they may have."

But Dwyer, who will take a closer look at his new charges at their first formal get-together tomorrow afternoon, may find his arrival is too late to prevent the club captain Jones, a former Wales and Lions scrum-half, from deciding this weekend to move to Cardiff.

In the case of Bristol's two young props - Michael Worsley and Kris Fullman - he is already too late. Worsley, the England Under-21 loose-head, joined Gloucester last week while the former England Students tight-head Fullman, 25, announced yesterday that he was taking up three-year contract worth pounds 180,000 with London Irish.

Fullman said: "I've been through the bad times with Bristol and I love the club and the supporters. I'm sure the club will get back to the top again but I'm in my rugby prime. It was a hard decision to make. I've got international ambitions and if I'm going to go then I've got to go now." Dwyer, who said no new signings were imminent, told the players that they would remain on their existing contracts for four months but needed to prove themselves.

"If they have confidence in their own ability then they can assume they will be here for the foreseeable future," he said. "It's very important to English rugby that Bristol re-establishes itself in Premiership One. This is the first step in that programme. I think it's too early to make any rash predictions about whether we will get out of the second division at the first attempt, but on the other hand, they weren't too far off the mark in their final six games last season.

"I think they've breathed a sigh of relief at the takeover because they are now on a much stronger financial footing than they were a year ago."

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