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Bristol captain Iain Grieve amongst 14 staying at club

Iain Grieve
Grieve is in his first year as Bristol captain after 10 years at the club

Bristol have re-signed 14 of their current squad, including playing captain Iain Grieve.

The front row of Mark Irish, Wayne Thompson and Darren Crompton, lock-forward Roy Winters and flanker James Merriman have also penned deals.

They are joined by backs Junior Fatialofa and Sean Marsden, and young duo George Watkins and Jack Tovey.

Bristol can also count on the services next season of Darren Barry, Marco Mama, Mark Davies and Jack Gadd.

"I think it shows the commitment of those players to the club and also their optimism for the new campaign next season," Bristol's soon-to-be head coach Liam Middleton told BBC Radio Bristol.

"So I'm very pleased with that group and some of them have committed for what is a longer term.

"All 14 are significant because they were our major targets and, although it's less than half a club, they're very influential and that's what is most important."

Chairman Chris Booy added: "Clearly we're a big club with history, and players want to come to us. We intend to go back to the Premiership at some point.

"It's about finance. We're building and the club's now financially stable so will at some point make another bid [for promotion]."

That confidence flies in the face of recent results in a disappointing campaign that saw Bristol struggle to make the promotion play-offs, finishing eighth in the Championship during the regular season.

The uncertainty over whether they would secure that final promotion play-off berth, or face the ignominy of battling to stay up in the relegation pool just 22 months after dropping out of the Premiership, has meant decisions on retaining players, and subsequent recruitment, has been left late.

And Middleton admitted the club were casting their net wide as they looked to bolster their squad for next season.

Liam is part of our style coming from within and has proved his worth and his skill with the academy players

Chairman Chris Booy on new coach Liam Middleton

"I'm looking above to the Premiership and abroad to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina," he said.

"But also I think there are some very good Championship players who are potential Premiership players who have not made that mark yet.

"I'm keen to look within these leagues and even the league below as National League One has got some very good rugby players who maybe have not had the opportunity.

Bristol announced at the beginning of March that Zimbabwean Middleton was taking over from Paul Hull at the end of this season.

"I personally believe it was the right decision for Paul and therefore probably right for the club," Booy said.

"Liam is part of our style, coming from within and has proved his worth and his skill with the academy players.

"He's very thorough and organised with the research he's doing into the players going forward.

"Myself and the board are very confident we've made the right decision."

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see also
Warriors get Bristol hooker Hayes
22 Mar 11 |  English
Bristol still in it, says Winters
21 Mar 11 |  English
Delaney not happy despite big win
21 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
RFU uphold Bristol's Grieve ban
18 Mar 11 |  English
Bristol 15-44 Worcester
13 Mar 11 |  English
Coach Hull set to leave Bristol
04 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union

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