Bristol Bears 2022-23 season preview - prediction, signings, ones to watch

The 2022-23 Premiership season will open with Bristol taking on Bath on Friday
©Steve Haag Sports

After a disappointing 2021/22 campaign, can the Bears recapture their spark this season?

Bristol had been building year on year until last term when they stumbled to a 10th place finish.  As Pat Lam starts his sixth campaign in charge of the club, many believe with the squad they have assembled, they should be back in the top four picture. 

If Bristol can keep the majority of their players injury-free throughout the season, they are sure to be a team to be reckoned with.

Last time out

After finishing in first place in 2020-21, the Bears had a disappointing campaign last time out. The season had so much promise for the then newly crowned Challenge Cup winners with many star players such as Charles Piutau back to full fitness, but ultimately injuries and a lack of consistency led to their downfall. 

Lam’s attacking side began the year poorly picking up just one victory in the opening five rounds against another team in Bath that was winless in the same period. They also ended the season in an underwhelming fashion, only winning two of their last eight matches as they missed out on the Heineken Champions Cup positions.


AJ MacGinty (Fly-half) from Sale Sharks

Ellis Genge (Loosehead Prop) from Leicester Tigers

Magnus Bradbury (Back Row) from Edinburgh Rugby

Gabriel Ibitoye (Winger) from Tel Aviv Heat

Richard Lane (Winger) from Bedford Blues

James Williams (Fly-half) from Hartpury University

Rhys Charalambous (Prop) from Leeds Beckett University

Fred Davies (Hooker) from Durham University

Martin Mulhall (Prop) from Swansea University

Jono Benz-Salomon (Tighthead Prop) from Hartpury University

Toti Benz-Salomon (Loosehead Prop) from Hartpury University

Oscar Lennon (Scrum-half) from Hartpury University

Joe Owen (Second Row) from Clifton

Morgan Eames (Second Row) from Beziers


Dave Attwood (Second Row) to Bath Rugby

Antione Frisch (Centre) to Munster

John Afoa (Tighthead Prop) to Vannes

Tiff Eden (Fly-half) to Zebre

Alapati Leiua (Centre) to Waikato

Ashley Challenger (Prop) to Chartres

Charlie Powell (Centre) to Jersey Reds on a season-long loan

James Dun (Second Row) to Jersey Reds on a season-long loan

Niyi Adeolokun (Winger) released

Joe Cotton (Hooker) released

Mitch Eadie (Back Row) released

Theo Strang (Scrum-half) released

Nathan Hughes (Number 8) released

Areas of strength

The sheer amount of star power at Bristol Bears will excite not just their fans, but many across England this year. With the likes of Piutau, Semi Radradra and AJ MacGinty in their backline, it is sure to be another season of high-scoring games when Lam's side are involved.

This x-factor brings uncertainty but also guarantees excitement and spectacular tries that will get the Bears out of sticky situations in games they are struggling in. 

Piutau and Radradra have the skill to score from anywhere so it makes Bristol a lethal threat on counter attack ball, which is where they scored the majority of their tries the season they came first in the regular campaign.

Now to Ellis Genge...

The prop is returning to his boyhood club and you can be confident that after picking up the Premiership trophy last campaign, that he will be pumped to win it again. 

The 27-year-old, nicknamed the ‘Baby Rhino’, has come on leaps and bounds since he left Bristol back in 2016. The Bears are now getting back a full England international who has experience on the biggest stage.

This will be vital for them as they try and go to the next level and make the final of the Gallagher Premiership. His aggressiveness and immense ball-carrying skills will help Bristol get on the front foot.

Areas of weakness

Although I said it was a strength earlier, the amount of stars at Bristol is also something that may hinder them from reaching the next level. Balancing big names is never easy, but this of course is subjective and you could argue there isn’t a better coach to deal with a variety of personalities than Lam.  

One weakness this Bears squad may have is the lack of depth for Piutau at full-back if he was to get injured. He is a world-class operator in the No.15 shirt and any team would struggle to replace him, but looking at possible names who would come in, the only other out-and-out full-back is Rich Lane. 

After that, they would have to play either Luke Morahan or Ioan Lloyd out of position, reducing the quality elsewhere in the backline. 

Opening fixtures

Round 1: Bath Rugby (H)

Round 2: Wasps (A)

Round 3: London Irish (H)

Round 4: Newcastle Falcons (A)

Round 5: Exeter Chiefs (H)

The season couldn’t start with a bigger game for Bristol as they face fierce rivals Bath at the Recreation Ground. That is sure to be a tasty opening round fixture with the Johann Van Graan era getting underway. 

With three home matches in the first five rounds, the Bears will be hoping to make Ashton Gate a fortress once again this season after their poor campaign last time out. Away games against Wasps and Newcastle Falcons will be early tests for Lam’s side but ones they will want to come away from with four points.

Predicted line-up:

1. Ellis Genge

2. Harry Thacker

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Chris Vui

5. Joe Joyce

6. Steven Luatua

7. Dan Thomas

8. Magnus Bradbury

9. Harry Randall

10. AJ MacGinty

11. Henry Purdy

12. Piers O’Conor

13. Semi Radradra

14. Luke Morahan

15. Charles Piutau

Predicted finish: 8th

The Bears are probably one of the hardest teams to predict this season. After the contrast in their positions in the last two campaigns, it is tough to know which Bristol side will turn up in 2022-23.

This is why I have gone conservative and went higher than last year, but not as high as the 2020/21 season. With Piutau, Genge and Radradra, they are sure to be the team to watch but ultimately their style of play relies on them outscoring their opponents and in such a strong league, I believe that tactic just won’t be pragmatic enough. 

Despite this, I am ready for this to be the prediction I look back on with dismay.

Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the can only be the Gallagher Premiership.

The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?

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