Bristol Bears Rugby Club: History in English Rugby Union
Bristol Bears History Rugby Club and Highlights.
Merger and Founding
The Bristol Bears were founded in 1888 by the merger of two rival clubs, Carlton and Redland Park. Fellow club Westbury Park was also invited to join, however they declined and subsequently folded, losing many of their best players to the newly formed Bristol rugby club.
The County Cricket Ground was used for home games all the way up until 1996 when the club moved into the 12,300 seater Memorial Stadium.
Their first ever game was an away match against Welsh side Cardiff RFC who beat them heavily. However, Bristol improved over the season and enjoyed a successful campaign. The club grew from strength to strength over the course of the next few years under captain W. Tommy Thomson.
Just 12 years after their founding, the club had their first England cap in J. W. Jarman who won his first and only cap in the forward pack in a match against Wales at Kingsholm in which wales won 13-3.
Bristol captain J. W. Jarman was a late selection for the match and many believed he was only included in a bid to drum up interest among English supporters.
Between the years of 1905 and 1909, Bristol played the New Zealand All Blacks and Australia. Both games ended in wins for the international visitors.
During their amateur era, Bristol Rugby won three Anglo-Welsh Merit titles in 1965/66, 1971/72, 1973/74, three RFU South West Merit Table Winners in 1979/80, 1980/81, 1981/82 and a single Anglo-Welsh cup in 1982/83.
Period of Flux
After Rugby Union turned professional in 1995, the club had a poor few seasons which saw the side relegated from the top tier of English rugby at the end of the 1997/98 campaign. However, the club bounced back into the first division following a first-place finish the following season which was their first title of the professional era.
The first rebrand of the club came in 2001 as a five-year contract was signed with Mitsubishi Motors to rename the club to Bristol Shoguns. This deal expired in 2006 as the club reverted back to their original name of Bristol RFC.
In between fluctuating between the top two divisions of English rugby, it took the club another five years before they saw more silverware with a Powergen Shield to add to their trophy cabinet in the 2003/04 season. They also won the British and Irish Cup in 2011 despite playing in the second division of English rugby.
In 2017, Bristol appointed Pat Lam as the club’s new director of rugby. The appointment followed his incredibly successful stint at Connacht Rugby, who won the 2015/16 Guinness Pro12 after beating the formidable Leinster side 20-10 in the final.
Following Bristol rugby’s most recent promotion to the English Premiership in 2018, the club announced a rebrand, becoming the Bristol Bears. The club made a huge 21 signings, overhauling the squad and bringing in some of the best players in the world, including Charles Piutau, John Afoa, and Harry Randall.
The club’s most recent title came in their 2019/20 campaign which saw the side win the European Challenge Cup following a 32-19 victory over French side Toulon.
Bristol Bears currently play at Ashton Gate Stadium, which was built in 1887 and has a capacity of 27,000. The ground is also home to EFL Championship football side Bristol City FC. It was originally built to host Bedminster FC before they merged into rival club Bristol FC.
Today, Bristol Bears have one of the strongest squads in the world boasting the likes of Semi Radrada, Kyle Sinckler, and Callum Sheedy.