RUGBY UNION: Exiles coach says fans can swing final

Justin Burnell

Justin Burnell

First published in Sport Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter specialising in Rugby, Cricket and Athletics. Call me on 01865 425456

LONDON Welsh head coach Justin Burnell says the Kassam Stadium crowd can be worth a converted try when they take on Bristol tonight (7.45).

The Exiles are expecting an attendance of betweeen 4,000-5,000 for the Greene King IPA Championship final first leg, which would comfortably be their best of the season.

Favourites Bristol have not lost in the league since December, but Burnell believes it would be a good time to end that run.

“Of course it would,” he said. “They have got to come here and I thought the support and the crowd in the semi-final against Leeds was just fantastic.

“If we can have the same amount or just a bit more, I honestly believe that’s seven points within itself.

“I thought they were amazing.

“The biggest message from me is let’s get down to the Kassam, get the support in here and produce plenty of noise. Then it’s come on the Welsh!”

The Exiles beat Bristol 22-7 at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium in November, but lost the return 25-21 last month.

However, this two-legged final – the teams meet again next Wednesday – is by far the biggest of their clashes and Burnell is relishing it.

“We are all excited,” he said. “It’s just a big occasion. “We are just up for this game. It’s an opportunity.

“When you look at the Aviva Premiership, it is now one of the best if not the best club competition in the world.

“It’s a fantastic advert for what world rugby is about and our aspiration has to be to join them in that fantastic competition.”

With two legs to play, many pundits will wonder what is a ‘par’ score for Welsh to take away from the Kassam.

But Burnell stressed: “It’s all about winning. We have got to turn up and win, whether that is by three points or ten points.

“Let’s just take the win and hopefully go down to the Memorial Ground and follow on with that.”

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