Golden Nugget
By Mr Bow Jangles
September 20 2004

Golden Nugget

This week Mr Bow Jangles caught up with our illustrious new skipper Matt Salter. Read on further to find out who the mystery remote control car champion is, why did our Matt take the step down in divisons and why Alex Brown can't find a clean pair of socks at the moment!
Bow: How did it feel to pull on a Bristol shirt on again in anger against Penzance?

Matt: “It didn’t feel that different really, it had only been a year I have been away. Although it is a different team and a different setup, a lot of the old faces are still there, especially the supporters that were down there, you see the same old faces amongst them, that was quite nice. It was a bit different, but I feel like I haven’t been away, it’s been a nice transition back into it. It’s a nice club to play for though, the atmosphere and the tradition, it all enhanced the fact to me that I had made the right decision to come back. To lead them out too…..I mean secretly you harbour the desire to captain the club, when you think of the players that have captained the club before it’s nice to fall into that sort of tradition. To get the captaincy was fantastic!”

Bow: Did you ever think about being captaincy material when you played for Bris in the Premiership?

Matt: “No, not really. With the squad we had, although we didn’t perform that well, I was just concentrating on getting a regular place, there was so much competition in the back row, Ben was around then, Shorty and the rest. So I never even considered that. Having said that, although it is a division lower it is still just as much an honour to captain this club now as it would have been in the Premiership because you are captain of such a big club. So that first game was nice, getting a win first up.”

Bow: What do you make of the start so far?

Matt: “Its been good. That first game against Penzance you have got to believe you are going to win but it was very much…I didn’t know anything about Penzance, well we didn’t know anything about Penzance. We played them plenty of times last year, but this league changes…there seems to be a large turnover of players here. Penzance obviously bought in a lot of new players, so that was a big game to win down there I think. We could have easily tripped up there and we would have been down on ourselves a bit. I think the confidence of the team that comes back each time is going to put us in good stead, because there is no doubt we will put a performance together eventually and then we will really beat a team. Maybe sometimes it is better to have a bit of adversity in your first two games and see how you respond to that. Coming to this weekend (Sedgley Park) or Plymouth and not to have had that before, you’d start to think, well what happens to this team when we are up against the wall. We’ve now been up against it in two games so we are not going to be worried if that happens.”

Bow: That’s what seemed to be our downfall last year having beaten Penzance so easily first up.

Matt: “Yea I saw the first game, Beanie was running around doing the ‘Michael Owens’ and I thought Christ we’re doing well here coz I didn’t know anything about Penzance, but maybe we have tougher skins now. You see people like Wasps and when they get down a few points they don’t get worried about it and come back and win. So I think although we have struggled a bit in the first two games there is no need to get worried about it. Basically the things we have got to put together are not difficult. If we were losing lineouts constantly or getting scrummed off the ball or Strangey wasn’t hitting his passes, then you would start to get worried. At the moment it is just little individual things…it’s not a team thing, if people look after their own little job then we’ll be fine.”

Bow: So, as you said you are now skipper of the side. How does that feel? And why did you put yourself forward for it?

Matt: “Yea, it felt like the ‘X-Factor’ or ‘Pop Idol’ in front of the judge!! I think Hilts said “I did it last year but I am more then happy if someone wants to take it over”. Hilly put it out to the squad and I think he had in mind some people who he would like to be skipper and some others who he wanted to come forward and make their claim as ‘willing to lead the team’. I don’t think he wanted to give the captaincy to some of them but he just wanted to know that he had a lot of leaders on the pitch in the team. Players who are willing to step up and that won’t just sit back and follow, people who would lead. Quite a number of people stepped up and wanted to be captain so that showed him that he had people in positions around the field that he could rely on to lead the team.”

Bow: Who stepped up?

Matt: “Obviously myself, Pritch, Ross, Sean…..I think Joe stepped up too and there was one other….I’m not sure who!! I think it was Hodgey!! I think Hilly had a couple of people in mind that he could narrow it down to. I think the way he went about it was a good idea as it gave him an insight into who wanted some responsibility within the team. I think people who didn’t get the captaincy, the likes of Sean, Ross and Joe are important to the team and it’s great they came forward aswell. I can’t make all the decisions out there as in some cases I am not in the position to do so, so Sean can take control at the back. You could make Ross captain but he is in such a pivotal role anyway…him and Strangey basically tell us what they want and I just have a couple of roles to do in terms of the overall picture. Those guys (Ross and Strangey) essentially run the game so they have enough to think about doing that and if they want to influence the game they can do it themselves. Pretty much the players sort themselves out, Hodgey calls the lineouts and it obviously all runs pretty smoothly…..its quite an easy job really!!!”

Bow: We’ve never really seen you in a captains role Matt, are you going to be the type that talks a lot and gees up the players or are you going to be a quiet type, leading by example?

Matt: “I don’t know, there’s times, especially at the weekend when we went in at halftime, that a few home truths had to be said. Hilly said his bit, which is pretty much along the same lines as what I said. I don’t like players who are too precious so I am not shy telling people like it is. I think you put your hand up and if you have made a mistake then you take the rap for it. That’s what we are there to do, we are paid to play well and if we make mistakes then we should put our hand up. People need to accept criticism and accept it in the right way. You know I will tell, as people tell me, if you muck it up and you’re doing the wrong things. Eventually you get a b*llocking! I am not frightened of doing that, but I also need to look after my own shop. If I am doing the right things then hopefully people will see that and just follow naturally. On the field I am not going to rant and rave, I think I will just look after my own job and do the right things when they need to be done, then at halftime if there are things to be said then there are things to be said. At the moment it is not too difficult because things are going well. It is essentially a new role to me so I don’t know how things will go if we are 30 points down and we’re getting a kicking, which I hope we don’t!! At the moment though, it’s not a tough job as I have complete confidence in the guys that we are going to win. We shall see further down the line. Hilly actually involves me quite a bit as skipper.”

Bow: How much do Hilly and Haagy involve you in team selection and tactics as skipper?

Matt: “Hilly talks about the team beforehand. I essentially (unless I have any strong opinions on someone or something in the team) don’t want to be involved in that because….well I have seen some skippers who take it too far. I don’t want to be a coach, I want to be an in-between. I don’t want to be involved in selection because I don’t want the players to be coming up to me asking why they weren’t picked this week. It’s the coach’s decision, unless there is something glaringly obvious, but Hilly would pick that up anyway. I am a player still and I just want to liaise with the boys. It’s very hard trying to find a balance actually because you don’t want to be too much in the boy’s camp and you don’t want to be too much in the coach’s camp. Tactics we talk about, you know what to do in certain situations etc. As a skipper I have got to lead them into a game so I need to be clued up on that. Ross and Jason really are the ones who look after most of our game strategy though. I look after the overall picture. The ins and outs and the calls in the games is down to them. Hilly is really good actually. The coaches I have had in the past (Dean and Phil Davies) are, well they’re not autocratic but they believe there is a way to do it and that’s the way to do it. Hilly has a different approach, he wants feedback from the players. I think it’s because he has such a young group of players that he is quite keen on them coming up with even some random ideas as at least it means they are thinking about the game and they are not just saying yes and nodding….following. Hilly has been really good with the young guys in that respect.”

Bow: What do you make of this years squad?

Matt: “I really didn’t expect it to be as good as it is. Obviously the guys are quite young so I think the players that Hilly has signed in certain positions have been quite crucial. Jason is playing very well he has become quite pivotal to us so it would be a bit dodgy if he got an injury although there are of course players to come in. Generally across the board though we have good players. Players that have come from other clubs with points to prove, it’s always good to get players like that. The only thing we might lack is a bit of strength in depth, but outside the Premiership it’s probably the same with every club, you can’t afford to have two internationals in every position that’s just the nature of the game at this level. Generally though, the squad we have, you wouldn’t worry about the players slotting in any position really so that is all we can ask for I reckon. The league we are in and the budget we have I think we have the best squad of players in this league.”

Bow: Do you detect any differences in attitude with this squad compared to the last Premiership squad?

Matt: “There wasn’t a lot of egos, but there were a lot of players pulling in different directions, players wanting to do well for different reasons whether they be international reasons or for personal reasons I don’t know, but that was a problem. That really didn’t help what was happening at Bristol. Obviously the guys who were here last year just came together and just wanted Bristol to succeed because that was their vehicle for doing well. It’s the same this year, the players want to represent their country but the only realistic way to do that is to move this club back into the Premiership so they have to all want the club to do well, we’ve all got same goal. Then when we get into the Premiership it’s a different matter, players might use it for different means. A lot of players in the Premiership do that, they use there club as a springboard to other things. That was definitely a problem with Bristol and maybe (people might not like me saying it) but dropping down a division was good for the club in the long run. Essentially it needed cleaning out. The foundations weren’t there in the Premiership, the house was always rocking, but now, you start with the right bunch of players. If a new player comes in and doesn’t have the same opinion then the players themselves will bring him into line. Whereas if you buy a load of players at once they all have different goals. Leicester and Wasps just add small amounts of players each year and the core players that are always there will make sure that these new players buy into the common goals. Bristol when we went up last time bought a whole new team and there was just continuous change every year with players pulling in different directions. In my opinion it has been good for the club to have a fresh start. There was a problem when we were in the Premiership but hopefully that has been ironed out and in the long run we are now looking strong.”

Bow: What persuaded you to step down a division and come back to Bristol?

Matt: “I didn’t really leave Bristol properly I was back down here quite a bit last season. I had signed for 3 years for Bristol so I had got my head around being here for 3 years. I desperately didn’t want to leave Bristol or the area. I was hanging in for a long time for a local club like B*th or Gloucester to come in for me just so I could stay in Bristol. I ended up going about as far away as I possibly could!! I did speak to Hilly throughout last season. At the beginning, the club were just trying to sort themselves out so they didn’t necessarily know what they wanted to do this year. When I did eventually speak to Hilly and decide to come back it did take quite a while. I didn’t just want to come back to the club and the club then just stay where it was because essentially as a player if I come back to this club the only way I am going to play in the Premiership again is if this club goes up. I didn’t want to be stuck in this division. I spoke to Hilly time and time again about what he had in place and what the directors plans were, was it really that they wanted to go up? Was it really going to happen? The more and more I talked to Hilly the more and more convinced I was that it would only be a matter of a couple of years before the club really were ready to go up. I thought ‘well I am 27 and I think taking the club up and being part of the Premiership again would be great’. I also think the players he signed meant the club really was getting geared up to do it. It was a different challenge, it was a rough year at Bristol when we got relegated, it was miserable. Then at Leeds we only finished above Rotherham and it was tough as we were losing a lot of games too…it was also rough. This is now a new challenge, hopefully we will win a lot of games and push for promotion be it playing for a team in the league below. But I thought there would be nothing better than leading a side to promotion. I couldn’t see myself in a side capable of winning the Premiership, that wasn’t the team I was in, so coming back here to lead the team back up was a challenge I could not turn down. Leeds were really good about it really, releasing me from my contract and everything.”

Bow: Were the Leeds players surprised with your move?

Matt: “Yea, I spoke to Phil (Christophers) and David (Rees) for quite a while. Dave loves Bristol and he would love to come back whereas Phil has other ambitions (international), different to myself so he needs to be in the Premiership. Neither of them were surprised with my move as they loved playing for Bristol. They could see why I wanted to come back. Some of the others were surprised and couldn’t understand why I wanted to drop down a division, but they had never played for Bristol and don’t know what the club is about. Thankfully Phil Davies was quite accommodating about it all, he managed to sort something out with regards my contract. Leeds was a tough place to play though. Training-wise it was probably the toughest Premiership club, it was very intense…not that it isn’t at Bristol, but for me it was not living where you want to live and lots of hard training too, it started taking its toll by the end of the year and I just felt moving to Bristol was something I really wanted to do.”

Bow: I appreciate you have only played two games in this league but what do you see as the key differences between this league and the Premiership?

Matt: “The intensity. The Premiership is probably the most intense league in the world. Its not pretty anymore though. Essentially it’s a bit of a bash up. You find it very hard to win lineout ball and you find it very hard to win anything, its all spoil, spoil, spoil, people try and steal ball all the time, people try and counter-ruck. I was speaking to Alex Brown the other day and he is just obsessed with stealing lineout ball so nothing ever gets going. The minute you introduced lifting it was nice, you could lift your jumpers and you started winning really clean lineout ball, then there was a niche in the market for people who stole lineout ball. Now tight-head props are the most highly-paid players because they ruin scrums. In the Premiership you have the best people at that kind of thing. The way Wasps defend, they run up on the outside and stop opposition playing. That level of intensity is a big difference. Physically I think the guys are the same size here…they are just as strong, just as fit. The guys at Bristol now are fitter than the guys I played with in the final year of the Premiership. Its just that the intensity week in week out means that there is never any respite. In this league you may have a game like London Welsh where even when you are down you still think “we’re going to win this”. If you get down against a Premiership team it just won’t happen, you never know who is going to beat who up there. If you are 1% off your game you will lose, whereas in this division you can still win on an off day. That’s all really though just the intensity, otherwise it is a good league and I have been surprised how physical it is.”

Bow: Having said that do you think there is a large gap between the two divisions, and if so do you think it is growing?

Matt: “Well in their first game Worcester got stuffed by Newcastle and I thought ‘here we go’. When Rotherham were up there last season there was a gap between them and the other Premiership clubs and they had won this league the previous season finishing above Worcester. I’d say there is a gap. I cannot see any team going up and staying up at the moment (although hopefully Worcester will prove me wrong this season). Hopefully if we go up we will stay up. Leeds went up a few years ago and again got relegated in their first season but Rotherham were not ready to go up, that extra year made all the difference as the following year they finished safe and qualified for Europe. If the promoted teams just had another year, its just that initial learning curb, it is so steep. By the end of this season I should imagine Worcester will be close to bridging the gap but by then it could be too late, its just that initial learning curb. If you buy a team (which some people say you should do) then it doesn’t really make a difference because you need them to be together as a team, yet if you use the players that got you up there then you have the learning curb, you’re in a catch 22 situation really. If you give them a year, then I am sure they would be fine. I know there is talk of a playoff system at the moment which they had before and I think that is probably right. That’s the only fair way, I mean last year it was miserable for Rotherham to go up and not win any games. Worcester are the most well-equipped team in a few years to stay up so it will be interesting to see what happens.”

Bow: Who do you see as our rivals for promotion this year?

Matt: “Bedford are looking good in this league but I have heard they don’t want to go up. They seem to have the facilities but they have got a lot of Northampton players that will not be available to them if they do go up. It seems Northampton have essentially leant them a team. There are only a few teams in this league who have ambitions to go up, Bristol, probably Birmingham (but they have got to sort their facilities out), Penzance and Plymouth. I don’t think Penzance are anywhere near ready. Plymouth obviously have a game plan that does well in this league but if they took that up to the Premiership they will get absolutely tonked, they wouldn’t even come close. Someone has to go up this year though. I think we have a chance of finishing first but I don’t think it would necessarily be good for us. It would be in one respect as it seems to be the year to do it. One more year and we would be better prepared but there could be a strong team down here relegated from the Premiership then so we shall have to see. One things for sure, if Plymouth went up it would be an absolute disaster. I think we are the only club with the right credentials to go up, we are a big club, but then it could ruin the club if it is not the right time. It’s a difficult one, go up now or wait a year which would be more beneficial. Saying that however, our intension this year is not to lose a game. We have set certain goals and we are going to stick by them. Those goals are for us to play well, but we have to be realistic about the situation. With Rotherham having their troubles and with Worcester going up, people’s expectations seem to have gone up a lot but they have forgotten that we have our own aims and we are going to stick with them, we are not going to change them, they are integral to our development, building upon what we did last year. I think after sticking to these goals we then assess our position again further into the season. If we start thinking long-term now then its easy to take your eye off the ball, and there is a lot of hard work between now and then to get through.”

Bow: Whether we do go up this year, next year or whenever it may be, what do you think we should be doing to prepare ourselves for that step up as a club?

Matt: “What I think we are doing at the moment, is we are trying to create a bunch of players and a playing style that’s enough not just to win this league but also to stay up in the Premiership too. A lot of teams in this league that do well have a big pack, people like the Plymouths and the Otleys and people like that. They seem to be just looking short-term in just winning this league, they don’t seem to be worried about phase 2. To go from having this game plan for 6 years in this division, 10 man rugby, to playing in the Premiership that’s when it will all go tits up. We will hopefully build a group of players able to perform at that level, but you can’t just play one dimensional rugby at that level, you will just get eaten up!! We have 10 man rugby in our armour if we want to play that, but we see ourselves as playing a style that would suit the Premiership aswell as winning this league. That’s the way we are preparing. We don’t want to be driving every lineout, not giving ball to our backs and winning this league by points difference at the end of the season. Worcester have proved that you can play good rugby in this league and win it at a canter. You have got to do that to stand any chance in the Premiership. I guarantee though if Plymouth won it this year and we finished, say fourth, if you put our team in the Premiership against a Premiership side and their team against a Premiership side I honestly believe our team would do better, purely because you just cannot bully people in the top flight like they do down here. That is what Hilly is doing, he is not looking short-term he wants us prepared at each level and I think that’s where we are doing it a bit smarter.”

Bow: How did you end up playing rugby, talk us through your early career?

Matt: “I didn’t play rugby till I went to private school. I got into rugby then because I was just a big kid, so they stuck me in the second row and just said ‘push’!! I was 17 and I ended up doing all the county stuff etc..which I didn’t really agree with and didn’t really like. I got to the edge of the England Schools and then just got bailed out (probably because there were better players there!), and I then just got naffed off with Union then as it was still in the medieval times!! I then took a year out and was going to Cardiff Institute on a scholarship. I thought, if I am going there I had better keep fit over the summer. Broncos at the time were based in Crystal Palace which was really near me so I decided to just go up there an keep fit before Cardiff. I went up there (the Broncos) and ended up playing for their academy, about 10/11 games. They do a different system there compared to what England Schools do. They have an academy for each club (which they do in Union now as well) and they all play each other before the senior game. The coaches would mark you on each game and would then feed it back to the GB selectors. So whereas in Union you play one trial game for 80 minutes, a few old farts look at you and decide you are not good enough, in League they have a really good build up of what coaches across the board think of you. I played 10 or 12 games for the Broncos Academy and then miraculously got a call up to the GB Academy squad, I was the only one from the South!!! Having played only 10 games aswell, to be fair I wasn’t really sure what was going on half the time!!! Anyway I went to New Zealand with them in November. Broncos then had 3 months pre-season in the winter months after that in Australia. They offered me a fulltime contract so I decided not to go to Cardiff Institute. I signed up for 2 years then and there, it was just before Union went professional. It was probably the best thing I ever did as they were a very professional setup. I think I ended up playing 50 or 60 games for them, I mean I played quite a few off the bench but in League they had rolling subs. I also played in the Challenge Cup Final with them, so it was a good experience. At the end of the 3 years I was discussing contracts with them, I thought I had done alright there and they obviously didn’t have the same opinion as me! They were full of Australians then apart from Martin Offiah and Shaun Edwards who were there but who weren’t products of the club like I was. I thought I had done reasonably well and played a quite a few games. They didn’t see that long-term. I then had a hunt round in Rugby Union and Bob Dwyer who was obviously an Aussie and liked his Rugby League, was interested. I was pretty lucky in that it was the time when a lot of Rugby League players were making the switch with the turn to professionalism. I had a couple of trial games and then signed up for 2 years.”

Bow: Who is the worse/best dressed player in the squad?

Matt: “Worse dressed is Coxy. He can never get the right clothes he is told to wear, he is hopeless!! Best dressed is Olly Kohn because his missus (who’s an air hostess) buys all his clothes when she is in New York! She kits him out! He had an I Luv NY t-shirt on the other day and his fake Von Dutch!!!”

Bow: Who do you think is the joker of the squad?

Matt: “Hilts, for his age he is the biggest kid I have ever known!”

Bow: and what about the quietest?

Matt: “Mikey Griffiths, he wouldn’t say boo to a goose!”

Bow: Who’s been coping the most banter in training this week? What for?

Matt: “Morgs probably. He’s back in the side now and we all think he’s going to be an angry man this weekend!!! He’s got that look in his eye, he’s either going to be on fire or he’s going to kill someone! He’s got that horrible look in his eye!”

Bow: What irritates you most about rugby?

Matt: “Sunday games. If you have a girlfriend, Saturday you can’t do much, Sunday is the game and she’s got work on Monday. If you have a few beers on Sunday night you hardly meet each other….which is quite good in some ways!!!”

Bow: What do you think of Bristol?

Matt: “I love the City of Bristol, its small enough to be personal but big enough not to be too boring. Its got the right balance. Living in London was just too hectic and too busy. The people are also more friendly and seem to have more time for you.”

Bow: What about Bristol’s fans?

Matt: “Obviously the Bristol fans have proved how loyal they are with whats gone on. What I can’t work out is why we have the same level of fans now as we did in the Premiership. When we played B*th at Ashton Gate it was amazing the amount of fans that came out of the woodwork and then just disappeared. That was a relegation battle, but what about when we were playing European teams, that was meant to be the making of the club…people must have a sadistic streak, when things are going bad they seem to want to watch!! The true fans are always there, they have proved that, the 4-5000 we used to get in the Premiership are all there again, but where are these guys that come out now and again? Why do I see cars leaving here (Clifton Village) on a Saturday morning with B*th shirts on? I guess its a lot to do with what happened with the club in the past, hopefully things are changing now and we’ll get all those fans back.”

Bow: What would you be doing now if you weren’t a rugby player?

Matt: “I’d probably be teaching I imagine, that was my initial intention, to teach, but I would probably have gone off the rails!! I’d probably be doing P.E. I imagine. I’d be some bum doing P.E.!!! It was also my intention to travel which is impossible to do when you play rugby professionally…although you have time off in rugby its dead time, a morning here an afternoon there, but you can’t grab a cheap flight and go off for a long weekend, that’s a downside. If I went travelling now I would probably also have to take my girlfriend which would be even more of a downside!!”

Bow: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a player/person?

Matt: “As a player I think my strengths are my defence and definitely my work rate. My weaknesses are out and out pace!!”

“As a person my strengths are my reliability, I’ll always try and do whatever you ask of me to the best of my ability. My weaknesses are, I am harsh on myself and I am very harsh on other people. I find it hard to accept other peoples weaknesses. I guess I have high standards and I am too critical with that. As captain, I will need to tone this down!”

Bow: Do you have any pre/post match rituals?

Matt: “I always have a number 2 and read the programme but that’s about it!”

Bow: Must be pretty busy in those toilets pre-match with Kohner in there too!

Matt: “It is yea, but you don’t want to be going in after Kohner, its not pretty! Lots of people do believe in rituals but I don’t. What happens if at one match you can’t do that one thing you always do, what are you going to do…panic? You’re performance is in the head really and you should be able to perform no matter what the circumstances.”

Bow: What do you enjoy most about being a rugby player?

Matt: “Keeping fit, keeping healthy and fit. There is no other job where you get paid to look after yourself. I would like to run a marathon one day and I know that without much training I could do that.”

Bow: What do you do to relax away from rugby?

Matt: “I like DIY. I am also doing an Open University degree in Social Sciences. The PRA (Professional Rugby Players Association) used to pay towards education but they don’t do it in this league, however I thought I would carry it on. If you remember Sherry and Jonno did the Plumbing course with theirs. Cooking for Jim Brownrigg also takes up a lot of my time, he’s always sniffing around for a feed! Alex Browns girlfriend also lives with us and I have to constantly tidy up after her too!!! She flooded the kitchen the other day turning the washing machine on when it wasn’t plugged in!!!”

Bow: Would you consider going into coaching at the end of your career?

Matt: “I would like to do coaching, but I would like to specialise in something like defence rather than doing something like Richard. The riggers he has is a lot especially all his responsibilities off the pitch. I think that was a problem with Dean here, he was left to do everything and he couldn’t commit himself to coaching like he wanted to. From what I hear at Gloucester he is not head coach so he is more relaxed and has more time to do coaching. He was a very good coach. I wouldn’t like Richards role therefore with all the baggage, maybe a more specialist role. With so many players now turning to coaching you need to be able to attack a niche area.”

Bow: What is your funniest moment in rugby so far?

Matt: “The funniest moment was probably against Cardiff when Jim dropped the ball for the second time it was hilarious!! The other funny moment was playing against Saracens and realising that Ben Sturnham used to be the bloke driving the little buggy that takes the Tee on when he was there!! He used to be second in the world at remote control car racing before he was a rugby player. He used to travel the world with his remote control car going up against some bloke from Japan who always used to beat him!! He was a right Geek!! Big Ben, now he has his M3 it’s a grownup version of that!”

Bow: Whats your darkest moment so far in your career?

Matt: “Bristol getting relegated. Well hurting my neck and then getting relegated. It was one of the weirdest moments. With the previous neck injury I had I was a bit worried, I lost the feeling in my arms and panicked at the time, but the worse thing was when I got to the hospital they wouldn’t let me move. There was a couple of pretty nurses around and to test your spinal column they had to stick their finger up your bum. I wasn’t allowed to change out of my kit so obviously after playing 70 minutes of rugby, not smelling the best I should imagine (especially the never regions!) then having someone do that with a load of pretty nurses watching wasn’t the best experience! I just thought ‘ oh my god this is the worst most embarrassing moment ever!’ that was probably my most darkest moment, being penetrated by a doctor with a glove!”

Bow: Were you on the sidelines for the London Irish game that season?

Matt: “Yea, I travelled up on the bus with the players. Neil McCarthy was at home watching the B*th game. I kept getting text messages from him and eventually Irish got too far ahead and I knew we weren’t going to come back. The players didn’t know what was going on so when the game had finished we had to tell quite a few of them what the score was. That was a glum day. I remember the fans coming up to the bus afterwards and giving me a couple of cans of cider, they were the true fans who stuck by us. It was difficult though, especially the so called ‘tunnel of honour’ as we were the ones who had got the club relegated, we go out there, we play, we lost the games and we lost the points. There were games we really should have won. As players we had to take responsibility for what went on out there. The fans were great to us but we have to hold our hands up for that. Hopefully with the players coming back who care about Bristol we can give back a little of what we took away that day.”

Bow: Who do you think is going to be the surprise package of the squad this year?

Matt: “There was a guy, Mark Irish, who looked good but he has gone off to Hong Kong! I think Billig after being injured so much last year has a lot of potential and I think he is just getting back into it now. He is different to a lot of centres we have got, he is good at making the outside break whereas Coxy will just run over anything put in front of him! Luke is coming back to form to, he is very much a Bristol lad and loves playing for Bristol. He has been wondering around lost for a couple of years. I also think Hodgey has another dimension to his game that he will bring on this year.”

Fan Question (Deano): Did you think your career was over, lying in pain on the ground at Saracens?

Matt: “No, I wasn’t thinking about anything really. I did say to Donna I don’t want to go off on a stretcher, because my mum was watching and I knew she would be gutted if I had gone off on a stretcher, well she was gutted anyway! No, I don’t like leaving the field on a stretcher. The initial pain was the worst I have ever had.”

Fan Question: (Znoober) Describe B*th rugby in 3 words?

Matt: “England, selection, bias!”

Fan Question: (Duncan Biskitt) What do you think of the standard of rugby in this league so far?

Matt: “Its pretty good, quite a physical battle. A lot of clubs don’t seem to have the ambition to go wide like we do. You have to match them physically though.”

Fan Question: (Trewbear) I was surprised you left Leeds as the fans loved you there, are you like a stick of rock with Bristol written all the way through?

Matt: “(laughs) Everything about Leeds I cannot criticise, I had a good time up there! I like to think I get on with all the fans here at Bristol though as I have a lot of the same feelings about the club as they do.”

Fan Question: (Keen Brizzer) Why the white boots?

Matt: “(laughs) They aren’t white, they are Canterbury boots but they are the cheaper pair…I didn’t realise they looked that white! I used to live with the London Welsh forwards coach up at Leeds and he told me not to wear white boots as it would make me stand out too much and the way I play I might get penalised quite a bit. He told me to knock the white boots on the head but I cannot afford to buy a new pair, so they will be staying for a while!”

Fan Question (Big Dave) Why is there a GB RL shirt of yours at St Dunstains RFC?

Matt: “I went to school there!”

Fan Question (Big Dave) Are you a League player who plays Union or a Union player who has dabbled in League?

Matt: “Union player.”

Bow: Message for the fans?

Matt: “Expectations are really high at the moment so I would say don’t rush things, our long term goals are just as important as our short term. We are trying to build something here and we may need a bit of patience whilst doing so.”

<Alex Browns Missus walks in>

“Matt, when are you going to turn your f**ing answer phone on?!!!”

…time to end the interview methinks!!!

Colour? Blue
Food? Sushi
TV Programme? Grand Designs
Football Team/Cricket Team? Charlton Athletic
Film? Life is Beautiful
Drink? Exhibition Cider
Woman? Nicole Kidman
Music? Soft Rock
Who would you like to be stuck on a desert island with? DC (Darren Crompton!)
Describe yourself in 3 words? Loyal, Committed, Cool

Lager/Bitter? Lager
Eastenders/Coronation Street? Eastenders
Nurse/Teacher? Nurse
Football/Cricket? Football
Rock/Dance? Rock
B*th/Gloucester? Gloucester
Dallaglio/Hill? Hill
Curry/Chinese? Curry
Night in/out? Night Out
Beach/Snow holiday? Beach
Australia/South America? Australia
Brittney/Christina? Brittney
Bum/Boobs? Boobs
Mullet/Crewcut? Mullet
Cat/Dog Dog
League/Union League