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Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Hill parts company with Bristol

Richard Hill
Hill took over as head coach at the Memorial Ground in 2003

Richard Hill has left his position as head coach of Bristol with the club bottom of the Guinness Premiership after just one win in 14 games.

Hill's future looked uncertain after he decided not to travel with the team for last Friday's 32-13 defeat against Sale at Edgeley Park.

Assistant coach Paul Hull will take over as head coach and will lead the side against Harlequins on Sunday.

Hill, 47, had been in charge since 2003 and took Bristol to promotion in 2005.

Bristol's defeat to Sale left them nine points adrift of Worcester at the bottom of the league and although Hill was due to leave at the end of the season, chief executive Steve Gorvett said the club decided to act early.

"We had already agreed with Richard that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, but given the position we are in we believe it to be more appropriate for Richard to leave now and for Paul Hull to take over as head coach," said Gorvett.

Hull has taken Bristol's training sessions this week while Hill's future was being resolved and the new head coach said the squad have been right behind him.

"The players have responded well and we just want to get back on track," Hull told BBC Radio Bristol earlier in the week.

"Richard, myself and John Brain work as a coaching team and there are plenty of times where I'll lead a training session and do team talks and John will do exactly the same.

"There's obviously a change, there's only two of us now, but the players have responded well and it's not that drastic a change."

And fly-half Adrian Jarvis backed Hull to give the team a new lease of life.

"It's been a slight distraction, but it's also been quite a good thing with Paul Hull taking over as it has given the players a slightly fresher view of things," Jarvis told BBC Radio Bristol.

"But they're not that different. There's maybe a slight change in the impetus on the way we're going to play the game, but the schedule's very similar."

Bristol legend and former England international Mike Rafter expressed disappointment at the decision, but not surprise.

Rugby getting more like football - Rafter

"Richard's a fantastic rugby person, a great leader, a great player in his day and a great coach," Rafter, who played for Bristol from 1972 to 1984, told BBC Points West.

"He's done some fantastic things for Bristol Rugby Club, but unfortunately we're in an era where it's somebody's livelihood and Bristol have been on a slippery slope this season.

"They're cutting costs and maybe they're just trying to liven things up.

"I'm presuming Bristol are looking to Paul Hull to come on board, have a honeymoon period, really get the boys going, win a couple of games and maybe, fingers crossed, hopefully survive."

Bristol chairman Chris Booy paid tribute to the work that Hill, a former England scrum-half and Bath stalwart, had done during his time at the club.

"Particular highlights of Richard's time as head coach would be surviving our first year in the Guinness Premiership, finishing third the following season and then competing in the Heineken Cup," Booy said.

"I would like to thank Richard for all that he has done for the club and wish him well for the future".

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see also
Bristol on the brink
19 Feb 09 |  Bristol
Sale 32-13 Bristol
20 Feb 09 |  English

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