Top five is realistic goal - Bristol coach Middleton

Bristol coach Liam Middleton says the side are targeting a top-five finish in the Championship this season.

Last season, under former coach Paul Hull, Bristol only managed an eighth-place finish and failed to progress past the group stage of the play-offs.

"It will be competitive - it's difficult to break in there," Middleton told BBC Points West.

"We finished eighth last season, we can't forget that, so a realistic challenge would be top five."

He added: "Once the play-offs start we've got to take our chances."

It is Middleton's debut season in charge at the club, having previously managed their academy side.

He has signed 11 new players and has brought some youngsters up to the first-team with him.

"New players were needed and they've injected a new amount of energy and excitement to the squad," said Middleton.

"Coming out of the academy George Watkins and Jack Tovey will make a real impact this season.

"They were really finding their feet in the Championship last season but this year I can see them really flourishing."

Although he is confident the club can improve on last year's standings, Middleton is aware of the challenge ahead as the new head coach.

"The league provides challenges in terms of managing your squad and individual players. You've got players who are 18 and you've got players who are 38 and they need to be managed individually.

"It's a unique league. No other league in world rugby is this attritional and we have to make sure we manage the players correctly for their performance and just to make sure they can make it through the season in good health."