Thorburn joins Ryan to keep Bristol flying

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The Independent Online

It appears to work this way: club owner appoints smart Antipodean to lend a hand on the coaching front on the Friday, team loses on the Saturday, director of rugby gets the push on the Sunday, newcomer is promoted to the top job on the Monday.

Of the 12 main men who started the Premiership campaign in September, only six are still in place. Wayne Smith and Warren Gatland, New Zealanders both, are now in charge at Northampton and Wasps, respectively; Michael Foley, an Australian, is running the show at Bath.

And now Peter Thorburn, an All Black selector this time last year, has surfaced in the shires. What price Dean Ryan's future at Bristol if the present trend is anything to go by?

"My role hasn't changed," said the big bad wolf of the English game yesterday, as he introduced Thorburn to the West Country public. "I see this as an opportunity to tap into a fantastic pool of knowledge and experience, and I believe Peter's arrival will be hugely rewarding, both for the club and for me personally. The man has spent five or six years with the All Blacks, so as far as I'm concerned, let's get him working."

Thanks to Bristol's position in the top half of the Premiership table and their increasingly confident rugby under the captaincy of Jason Little (another southern hemisphere type, needless to say), Ryan's belief in his own security is rooted in reality. Indeed, the only threat to his future at the Memorial Ground is a rumoured approach from Nigel Melville, an acquaintance of long standing who has just taken over at Gloucester – and that is a long shot, since existing No 1s tend not to consider a second-in-command post as a smart career move.

Thorburn has yet to see Bristol play, either in person or via the video, but said he was suitably impressed by the skills and fitness levels he witnessed at two training sessions earlier in the week. "In the southern hemisphere, we like to think we have a lot of the answers concerning this game, but it would be pretty presumptuous of me to just walk in here and tell everyone what's what," said the former North Harbour coach.

"But I do think United Kingdom rugby is benefiting from what you might call the cross-pollenisation process. Back home, where imported players and coaches are very rare, we seem to be cloning ourselves: coaches, in particular, are inclined to be conservative and introverted. You can have too many imports, but in New Zealand we're suffering in reverse."

Bristol, suffering on the front-row front because of Darren Crompton's six-week suspension for stamping and injuries elsewhere, have secured the services of a 19-stone tight-head prop – a rare commodity indeed – in the shape of Emiliano Bergamaschi. The 25-year-old Argentinian from the Athletico del Rosario club was recommended by his countrymen, Agustin Pichot and Felipe Contepomi, and will be in the 22 for Sunday's awkward match at Leeds.

The aforementioned Smith is certainly making his presence felt on the front-row front at Franklin's Gardens, where Northampton meet Newcastle in the second of tomorrow's Powergen Cup semi-finals. The coach has dropped two international forwards, the Lions loose head Tom Smith and the new England hooker Steve Thompson, and replaced them with the rookies Robbie Morris and Dan Richmond.

"I have chosen the best team at this point in time," he pronounced. "I am not resting anyone; everyone was available for selection." Meanwhile, the Harlequins captain, Garrick Morgan, has been demoted to the bench for the Londoners' semi-final with London Irish at The Stoop.