Can the Bears land the English title for the first time? Their fortified line-up will test their mettle against reigning champions Saracens at Ashton Gate this weekend
Bristol v Saracens live stream: How to watch from anywhere
Bristol have never been English champions but there is a growing conviction that this could be their year. Lying third in the Gallagher Premiership, they would be a fearsome proposition in the knockouts if, as expected, they make October’s play-offs.
There are nine rounds still to fit in before then and up first for Pat Lam’s men on Saturday are Saracens, whose players have scattered to the winds in the wake of the club’s relegation because of salary cap breaches. Their bench this weekend includes four players yet to don a first-team Sarries shirt.
That said, they field four England internationals in a heavyweight pack, and there is a welcome first start of the season for back-row Mike Rhodes, once spoken of glowingly as an England contender himself.
The visitors’ back-line looks rather less imposing, with Owen Farrell (quadricep) and Elliot Daly (hamstring) injured and Brad Barritt being nursed back to full fitness.
However, they will be directed at half-back by two Premiership greats in Alex Goode and Richard Wigglesworth, who have nearly 550 Saracens appearances between them. Goode has 297 of those and will join Japanese side NEC Green Rockets on a loan deal after Sarries’ campaign concludes on 4 October.
Magnificent a player as Goode is, he will be upstaged at Ashton Gate by Semi Radradra. The Fijian makes his Bears debut at 13 – as opposed to the wing role in which he was deployed at last year’s World Cup. Whatever the shirt number, Radradra is an X-factor player.
“I think he’s the most devastating attacking player in world rugby. It takes two or three people to stop him,” said Danny Care in the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly Podcast. “You’ve got him and Charles Piutau in the back-line and they’re going to be pretty special. They’ve got every chance of going all the way this year.”
Kyran Bracken, another England scrum-half of distinction, also believes Bristol can become the tenth different club to claim the English title since the leagues began in 1987-88.
Bristol give a first start to hooker Brian Byrne while newly arrived England forwards Kyle Sinckler and Ben Earl are on the bench. Earl has joined on loan from Saracens, along with Max Malins, and finds himself in a duel of sorts with new team-mate Luke Morahan. The pair are joint top of the Premiership’s try-scoring chart with seven, part of a five-way tie.
The Bears have won their last five Premiership matches – their best-ever winning run in the competition – but will be mindful of the 47-13 thrashing dished out by Sarries in the reverse fixture last December. Morahan and Earl, opponents that day, were both on the scoresheet.
Since then, Bristol have strengthened through player recruitment, added South African Omar Mouneimne and former Scotland prop Alasdair Dickinson as defence and scrum coach respectively, and opened a world-class training facility at Abbots Leigh. The spacious new centre has facilitated social distancing measures.
Director of Rugby Lam said: “It is such a great feeling to finally be back doing what we all love. I think all the teams know that with such a congested fixture list, starting well is massive. All 12 teams will have that aim, to try and get off to a fast start.”
Bristol team: Charles Piutau; Luke Morahan, Semi Radradra, Siale Piutau, Henry Purdy; Callum Sheedy, Harry Randall; Jake Woolmore, Bryan Byrne, John Afoa, Dave Attwood, Chris Vui, Steven Luatua (capt), Dan Thomas, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Saracens team: Sean Maitland; Alex Lewington, Dom Morris, Juan Pablo Socino, Rotimi Segun; Alex Goode, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George (capt), Vincent Koch, Maro Itoje, Callum Hunter-Hill, Mike Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Elliott Obatoyinbo.
How to watch Bristol v Saracens from outside your country
If you’re abroad, but still want to watch your local Premiership coverage, like Bristol v Saracens this Saturday, you can do so by using a VPN – Virtual Private Network.
VPNs allow you to get around any geo-blocking by changing your IP address so you appear in a different location and can watch the same legal Premiership live stream you would at home.
Our friends at TechRadar have tested hundreds of VPN and recommend ExpressVPN, which is easy to use, has strong security features and allows you to watch on several devices at once, including smart TVs and phones, iPads, tablets, PCs and Macs.
Plus, ExpressVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can try it out for a month for free or sign up for an annual plan and get three months free.
Bristol v Saracens live stream: How to watch from the UK
Bristol v Saracens, which kicks off at 4.30pm on Saturday, will be shown live on BT Sport 1 in the UK. If you don’t have a BT contract but want to watch the match, don’t worry because you can still easily watch it online.
That’s because BT Sport has a contract-free monthly pass that allows you to get instant access to all four of their sport channels for just £25.
That’s great value given they are showing every Premiership match played behind closed doors live and will also cover the European Champions and Challenge Cup knockout stages in September and October. Plus, you can cancel at any time because there’s no contract.
Clubs are also working with BT Sport to allow season ticket-holders free access to home games on the channel’s app.
If you’re from the UK but are overseas when Bristol v Saracens takes place, you can get your normal live stream but you’ll need a VPN – see the information above.
Bristol v Saracens live stream: How to watch from Europe
If you’re in Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you can watch Bristol v Saracens (kick-off 5.30pm) through the live and on-demand streaming service DAZN.
Bristol v Saracens live stream: How to watch from the USA
If you live in the States, the official broadcaster of Premiership matches is NBC, with matches streamed on NBC Sports Gold so you can watch them anytime and anywhere.
Bristol v Saracens will kick off at 11.30am EST and 8.30am on the West Coast.
The NBC Sports Gold Pass for rugby is $79.99 and includes coverage of the Gallagher Premiership, European Champions and Challenge Cups, and Guinness Six Nations.
Bristol v Saracens live stream: How to watch from Australia
For those in Australia, Fox Sports have the rights to show Premiership matches and you can watch Bristol v Saracens from 1.30am on Sunday morning (AEST).
Foxtel currently have a deal on the Sports HD bundle if you sign up for a 12-month plan by 31 August 2020. Instead of the usual $74 a month, it’s $59 – and you get 50+ other channels as well as Foxtel GO so you can watch when on the move.
Bristol v Saracens live stream: How to watch from South Africa
If you want to keep track of the many South Africans plying their trade in the Premiership, then SuperSport shows matches in South Africa.
South Africa is one hour ahead of the UK, so Bristol v Saracens kicks off at 5.30pm on SuperSport 8.
There are various DStv packages available that give access to SuperSport, ranging from EasyView, with access to Blitz, to Premium, with all ten sports channels.
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