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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Friday, December 29th 2017

‘It’s a privilege to continue my journey with Bristol’ - Tovey

It was Friday, November 20th, 2009 when an 18-year-old Jack Tovey made his Bristol Rugby debut during an 18-11 British and Irish Cup victory over Neath at The Gnoll. Eight years, five coaches, one promotion, one relegation and 170 caps later, the academy graduate says he’s hungrier than ever, after extending his stay at his boyhood club.

Tovey, who turned 27 nine days before Christmas, is now the club’s current longest serving player, and the former Colston’s School pupil admits both he and the club, have changed dramatically during his time in the hoops.

“As somebody who grew up supporting the club, it’s a massive privilege to continue my journey with Bristol,” says Tovey.

“I’m a different person now than when I first started at Bristol, and I’d like to think I’ve changed for the better.

“It would be quite nice to start again, knowing what I know now, but I think I’m more mature and I’ve learnt a lot as the years have gone by.

At the club, I think the change in personnel has been the strangest thing. In a weird way, it feels like the longer I’ve been here, the more professional it’s got."

Jack Tovey beats Chris Ashton to a high ball during last season's Aviva Premiership clash at Allianz Park (JMP UK).

“Maybe, it was a bit more of an old school feel when I started, but that’s definitely changed over the last few years and now we’re striving to be that top-level club.

“If we want to reach the end goal that has been set, this is the only way to do it, we need to keep striving to be better.”

That goes for Tovey himself, by his own admission, as he targets a consistent spot in Pat Lam’s first fifteen. The rangy and versatile back understands competition for places is at an all-time high, but insists the environment created by Lam and his coaching team leaves responsibility firmly in the hands of the individual.

“With the way that we play, it’s quite simple - Pat is very big on knowing your role, knowing the system well, and doing your fundamentals well,” he says.

“As long as you look after yourself and make sure you’re doing everything you possibly can, you can’t point the finger elsewhere.

“I think when players start worrying about other people more than themselves, that’s when they lose sight of direction and what they need to get better at.

“If we want to reach the end goal that has been set, this is the only way to do it, we need to keep striving to be better.”

Jack Tovey

“For me, other guys might be able to do different things to me, but if I do what I am good at as often as possible within a game, work as hard as I possibly can off the pitch, and not worry about what everyone else is doing, then I’ve only got myself to blame if it doesn’t work out.

“Having had that chat with Pat before contract talks, about where he thinks I can develop, he still believes I’ve got plenty to offer, so hopefully with the rest of this season and another pre-season under him, that’s only going to help me moving forward.

“Hopefully, come the start of next year, I can put myself in as good a place as possible to earn that starting spot.”

While everything around him has undergone radical, and sometimes arduous, transformation, Tovey has remained a constant at Bristol – and very much to his credit - something he puts down to hard work, adaptation and evolution.

“It’s been a long time. I like to think that I’m a likeable character, that I work hard, I don’t cause coaches too many issues, I think I’m quite diligent with my prep, I don’t feel like I’m a particularly high maintenance player, so from that aspect, that’s probably been a benefit to me.

“I also think, having had different coaches over the years, when they tell you what they want from you, or how they want you to play, or how they want you to improve, it’s so important to actually work towards that and I feel like that’s something I’m very good at."

Tovey touches down in the closing stages against Bath during the 2016/17 campaign (JMP UK).

“I try and do what they tell me to do, and I’m coachable. When you work under so many coaches and experience so many changes in players, you see that the guys who have fallen afoul of that, are the ones who haven’t done it.

“Another thing is, when you’re not playing or getting picked, you need to be training well and contributing, whereas if you’re not involved and being disruptive, all of a sudden, you’re not playing and not being considered.”

With the club beginning a new era under Pat Lam, Tovey is now eyeing another crack at the Premiership with his first and only club, but knows there’s plenty of work to be done before that becomes a reality.

“I think we’ve definitely learned from last season,” he says. “Having probably not been the best prepared, I still think we could have won a lot more games than we actually did.

“So, I think, fingers crossed, if we do go up, we’ve had that year to learn from it and we can take a lot from it and push forward.

“We know we’ve got a lot of hard work to do this season and we know how challenging this league is, but I’m looking forward to the future here at Bristol.”