Pat Lam: New Bristol head coach outlines Champions Cup ambitions

Pat Lam
Pat Lam was formally unveiled at Ashton Gate on Friday

New Bristol head coach Pat Lam has targeted European Champions Cup rugby for the club, despite relegation from the Premiership in April.

In December, former Connacht boss Lam signed a three-year deal at Ashton Gate before seeing out the Pro12 campaign.

Now Bristol will bid for an immediate return to the Premiership in 2017-18.

"We have three big objectives: Champions Cup, our players playing for England and local boys playing for Bristol," Lam told BBC Radio Bristol.

"This place is like a field of dreams. It's a beautiful city as well. The vision was the key - inspiring the community through rugby success. I love that.

"The board asked me to come and maybe do what I did at Connacht, where we probably had the lowest budget."

Lam led the Irish provincial side to the Pro12 title in 2015-16 and then an eighth-placed finish last term.

He replaces Mark Tainton, who took over as interim head coach in November following the sacking of former director of rugby and ex-England boss Andy Robinson.

Tainton is taking on a new role as chief operations officer, overseeing the club's recruitment policy and academy.

Lam aims to emulate Saracens

Lam admitted his targets were ambitious, but added: "Saracens are the most successful team at the moment but I know that when I played Saracens nearly 20 years ago, they were nowhere near it.

"But they got themselves organised and had a clear vision. It's exactly the same. We need to aim for Champions Cup. We're not interested in [just] survival.

"We want to make sure we get promoted and then, when we get there, it's about winning it and going up to the Champions Cup, and being there regularly.

"We want this to be sustainable and ongoing, because then that fulfils the other two objectives - players playing for England and getting our local schools and clubs to get all those local Bristolians coming through to play for us."

Bristol were promoted back to the top tier for the first time since 2009 in 2016, but finished bottom of the table.

Speaking in March before their relegation was confirmed with two games remaining, chairman Chris Booy claimed Bristol would "walk promotion" back to the top flight.

Only the Championship winners will be promoted at the end of the new season after the previous play-off system was scrapped.

In May, owner Steve Lansdown admitted the club had "underestimated" the Premiership and stressed that lessons had been learnt.

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