Peel eyes Twickenham victory
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: He never managed it as a player, but now in his first full season as a coach former British & Irish Lion and Wales' superstar Dwayne Peel has a Twickenham victory in his sights.
Premiership new boys Bristol travel to rugby HQ to face local boys Harlequins on the opening weekend of the season at the blockbuster London Double Header event.
It will be a baptism of fire in the league for Bristol, who are returning to the top table of English rugby for the first time since 2009 after their promotion from the Championship.
They will not have to wait long for their first home game at Ashton Gate as they take on Northampton Saints there in Round Two, but Peel - in his first season as Andy Robinson's attack coach after retiring from playing in March - is adamant that the focus is on their curtain-raiser.
"To go to Twickenham first up is a fantastic way for us to start," he said. "Some Championship games last year were played in front of 500-600 people.
"So to take on Harlequins at Twickenham is a brilliant opportunity and the boys are buzzing for it – it can't come quick enough to be honest.
"We've been together a long time now; it's hard putting in the mileage on the treadmill every week so it will be a relief for everyone to get some competitive rugby under our belts.
"Of course Twickenham is up there in terms of the world’s best stadiums, but I never won there as a player so it is not a successful place for me.
"It's a massive stadium and fantastic to play there, but in many ways we couldn't have a tougher start playing Quins there, followed by Northampton, Wasps, Exeter Chiefs and Saracens.
"There are no easy games in this league, but we're relishing it and it would be great for our guys to show they are up to speed in the Premiership on the first week. They certainly will be after the first six weeks.”
Harlequins are a side in transition following the departure of Conor O'Shea and appointment of John Kingston as director of rugby in his stead. But Peel does not believe that will give Bristol – who won 20 of their 22 games in the Championship last season before beating Bedford Blues and Doncaster Knights in the play-offs – any advantage heading into the Twickenham showcase.
"There obviously will be some changes there, but I don’t think the side will change too much from last year," he added.
"They have great half-backs who run the game well and are elusive, so I can’t see them switching too many things around as it wouldn’t be in their interest.
"We'll have a good crack at them. Confidence is high in the squad at the moment, and it's just about going out there and getting up to the speed of the Premiership.
"Especially for the guys that haven’t played at this level, they will need to deliver a performance."