Ella Lovibond Interview: "We are managing our emotions and getting ready to embrace the big game atmosphere"

Ella Lovibond has certainly played her part in Bristol Bears Women finishing in the top four
©RFU Collection via Getty

Bristol Bears star Ella Lovibond says that her side are ready to ‘embrace the big game atmosphere’ ahead of their Allianz Premier 15s semi-final this weekend.

Bristol, who finished fourth in the regular season, will go head to head with league winners Gloucester-Hartpury on Saturday afternoon as they look to go one step further than last year and reach the competition's finals.

Lovibond admits it has been a mixed season for the Bears, but has been impressed with the form they have shown in recent weeks.

“At the beginning of the season the internationals were coming back from the World Cup and it took a bit of time for them to fit in again and for everyone to get used to the plays, so I think we had a few bumps at the beginning of the season”, said the former England-U20 international.

"We had a few losses in January to Sarries, Exeter and Gloucester but after that, we just kept building and won eight of our next nine.

"Post Six Nations, the internationals came back and we just got even stronger and we’ve been in really good form."

Dave Ward’s side have undoubtedly found form at the perfect time, and things seem to be clicking at the business end of the season.

However, in recent semi-finals they have appeared in, they have lost them all but Lovibond thinks the Bears are now better prepared for these types of fixtures.

"We’ve been in three semi-finals now and lost them all to Exeter if you include the cup as well. I think we’re learning how to manage the big games and we’ve had a couple of big ones recently against Exeter [24-21 win] and Harlequins [31-26 win] that we treated as quarter-finals to get us into the semi-finals.

"We are managing our emotions and getting ready to embrace the big game atmosphere and the large crowds at Gloucester.

"At training last night [Monday] we had Gloucester chants glaring through the speakers, so we are just trying to get ready for their big fan base and get used to playing in front of it."

This weekend’s clash will take place at Kingsholm, and although Gloucester-Hartpury have only played there a handful of times this season, they have been imperious as the home side all campaign, conceding only 144 points all season - the second least in the league.

Having already lost twice to them this season, Lovibond is very aware of Gloucester-Hartpury’s quality and was particularly full of praise for their half-back pairing.

"I think their 9 and 10 are a big threat. Mo Hunt is the classic 9 - she’s literally everywhere and it's really annoying”, laughed the utility back.

"Lleucu (George) just has a huge, quality boot so they will definitely bring their kicking game, but we are expecting that. That’s not really our style of play, but if they want to give us the ball we will love to attack from it."

Lovibond, who sits in the top five for metres carried and line-breaks this term, believes Bristol’s ability to run with the ball is what can give them an edge in Saturday’s fixture.

"In the Saracens game, they (Saracens) kicked the ball a lot as well, which gave us an opportunity to attack and really build into some phases, which is where we started to break them down. I think that will be the same with Gloucester.

"If they just want to kick the ball away and give it to us, we will attack for many, many phases, and that plays to our strengths."

Bristol Bears Women are looking to make their first-ever Allianz Premier final, and Lovibond was quick to speak about the positive impact that the experienced players bring to the camp ahead of games of this magnitude.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Amber Reed (@avreed12)

Amber Reed and Sarah Bern captain and co-captain the side respectively, and having been in squads which have featured in World Cup finals and have won Six Nations Grand Slams, they are no strangers to high-pressure matches.

"Reedo (Amber Reed) just brings so much experience and she’s been in lots of these situations before. She knows what to say and when to say it, and when we need to push ourselves or when we need to take a step back”, said the 21-year-old.

"I think Berno (Sarah Bern) has really stepped up recently as vice-captain, and she motivates us in kind of a good cop bad cop way. She can lead in how she’s playing, especially with her physicality which brings everyone else up as well."

Lovibond and Bristol Bears will hope their key players will continue to lead by example this weekend in order to secure them a spot in the final.

With Exeter Chiefs and Saracens battling it out in the other semi-final on Sunday, it is set to be an exhilarating weekend of Allianz Premier 15s rugby.