Bristol open chequebook in move to keep pace with elite

The condition known as "second season syndrome" generally applies to individuals rather than teams, but Bristol are uncomfortably aware that they could easily fall victim in next term's Premiership without some concerted activity in the transfer market. Hence yesterday's raid on the Celtic League, which promptly produced a pair of useful acquisitions in the shapes of Brian O'Riordan, the Leinster scrum-half, and Craig Morgan, the free-scoring winger from Cardiff Blues. These signings are unlikely to be the end of the story, but they are plenty to be going on with.

O'Riordan won Irish caps at under-19 and under-21 levels, but has played second fiddle to Guy Easterby in provincial competition for longer than he cares to remember. He was ripe for a move, and Richard Hill, the Bristol coach and a scrum-half of considerable note during his playing career, believes that he will offer meaningful competition for Shaun Perry, whose prospects of winning a first cap for England in Australia this summer must be very good indeed.

"I've been looking for someone to provide genuine first-class cover for Shaun, as we think he'll be involved with the full England set-up over the next year or so," Hill said. "We need a half-back who can step in and perform at the highest level. Brian meets that criteria. Yet at the same time, we didn't need an individual who would come here demanding a first-team place without earning it. We've spent time with Shaun and developed him. He is our number one.

"Brian is 25 - just the right age for us to be able to work with him on his skills and help him develop his game. He's been over to Bristol a few times and proved very receptive to new ideas. In addition, he's similar to Shaun physically: tall and powerful, capable of attacking the fringes and quick enough to go through a gap. He's also a few years younger, so we're taking a long-term view."

O'Riordan made his Heineken Cup debut against Bristol at Donnybrook four years ago, but as Brian O'Driscoll and company were also strutting their stuff that day, the travelling Memorial Grounders might have been forgiven for not noticing. They will recognise Morgan, however. The 27-year-old Welshman won 10 full international caps between 2002 and 2005 and was a wildcard contender for a place on the Lions' tour of Australia in 2001. His trademark chip-and-chase routine has suckered many a defence, and he will sharpen Bristol's attacking game, which has had all the cutting edge of an elderly blancmange of late.

"Craig will definitely give us some additional try-scoring experience," agreed Hill, who exceeded expectations by keeping his newly promoted club in the élite league while operating in a financial straitjacket. "We scored only 28 tries last season, despite having lots of possession. Craig is a proven finisher with real pace; in fact, he was timed as the quickest wing in the Wales squad not so long go. We have some good young wings in David Lemi, Lee Robinson and Marko Stanojevic and they're all learning. But Craig has that scoring instinct."

Both Hill and Perry have been nominated for Guinness Premiership awards: Hill in the coach of the season category, where he faces challenges from Philippe Saint-Andre of Sale and Brian Smith of London Irish; Perry as player of the season. The scrum-half has competition from the rejuvenated London Irish centre Mike Catt, the Sale captain Jason White, the Wasps winger Tom Voyce and the former All Black outside-half Carlos Spencer, who has just completed a first campaign at Northampton.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power