Andy Robinson: Bristol must handle being title favourites

Bristol director of rugby Andy Robinson says his players must find a way to handle the pressure of being favourites for promotion from the Championship.

The club have the biggest playing budget in the league and have signed 11 former Premiership players this summer.

"Every game we have will be like a cup final," former England and Scotland coach Robinson told BBC Points West.

"Every other side will see it as an opportunity to beat the big spenders and knock us off our perch."

He continued: "You've got to be able to handle the pressure. The intensity will be there and we will have to learn to deal with that."

Bristol in the Championship

  • 2012-13: 5th
  • 2011-12: 1st - lost in play-off semi-finals
  • 2010-11: 8th - finished bottom of play-off group
  • 2009-10: 1st - lost in play-off final

Bristol have been striving to regain their top-flight status since relegation in 2009, but have failed to make it through the knock-out stages despite finishing top of the table on two occasions.

And last season, with only the top four teams making the cut for the play-offs, they missed out after finishing fifth in the table.

As he embarks on his first full season in charge, Robinson acknowledged that promotion was his main priority.

"There's no point in hiding away from it and being quiet about it," he said.

"We've laid down what we are about and we want to show how we are going to achieve that.

"The pressure and expectation will be there, but we still need to perform. That's what we are looking for from our players."

The Championship season kicks off on Sunday with Bristol facing Cornish Pirates at Exeter's Sandy Park - which will also host Jersey's game against Plymouth Albion, one of three double-headers to be held on neutral grounds.

"We'll go to Exeter - a great stadium - and if the conditions are good then we'll have a great game," added Robinson.

"They will certainly be up for the game and that's the beauty of it - sometimes you're going in to the unknown about what you are going to face.

"For some players they've never faced the Pirates before, so we need to handle what is in front of us."