Bedford Blues take on Bristol at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday in a match that starts a run of games that could shape their season, writes Michael Hann.
The Blues get back to Championship action after two impressive wins in the British & Irish Cup and director of rugby Mike Rayer is well aware of how crucial the next few weeks could be when they take on Bristol followed by Newcastle.
He said: “I guess we would we be lying if we didn’t think these next four or five weeks are going to be the toughest part of the season for us so far.
“We’re looking forward to these couple of weeks as we will know even more about ourselves and they are two huge tests there is no doubt about that.”
After topping the Championship last season Bristol have struggled so far this time around and have lost their last three league fixtures.
However, the B&I Cup has proved more fruitful for them as they recorded back-to-back wins and Rayer knows Sunday’s game will be a tough one.
He continued: “They have a tremendous-looking squad. They are well organised, well coached, and they have a passionate crowd behind them.
“They have had some morale-boosting wins over the last two weeks and I’m sure they will be looking forward to getting back into Championship action and we’re next up for them. We have only won once there in our 126-year history so it is a massive challenge for us but we will go there with a quiet confidence.”
The Blues should welcome back Scott Spurling and Ben Ransom for the trip down the M4, however Tom Armes and Ben Gulliver are likely to be missing.
“Scott Spurling and Ben Ransom should be available this week, so we will see how they come through training,” Rayer continued.
“For Tom and Ben it is probably a week too early for them – but it will be touch and go.”
The Blues annihilated Stirling last weekend and Rayer says his players’ performances in recent weeks have provided him with a welcome selection headache.
He added: “I thought on Saturday we executed our gameplan to a tee.
“The scrum and the lineout were efficient and the movement and running off the ball was terrific. It is the headache all coaches want and there are some boys showing real hunger and desire for the jersey – long may it continue.”