Rugby Union Expert & Columnist
Championship play-off final: Dewi Morris previews London Welsh v Bristol
Dewi Morris previews the London Welsh v Bristol play-off with the Premiership awaiting the winner.
Last Updated: 27/05/14 3:09pm
Everyone knows it all comes down to this. Whether the coaches agree with the play-off system doesn't matter but in a perverse way it's fascinating rugby. It all comes down to two games, four halves, and how you manage your team.
In the semis we saw London Welsh do that very well against Leeds - who made far too many mistakes - while Welsh managed their forwards very well.
Form goes out the window, and for Bristol you can't negate the affect Ryan Jones would have on any side because of his vast experience. They've lost their captain Ruki Tipuna but the Welshman has come in to steady the ship, which he did in the second half against Rotherham.
Who blinks first?
To the team that turns up, doesn't prepare and thinks it will just happen - it won't.
I commentated on Stade Francais v Wasps in the European Rugby Champions Cup play-off and Stade were 15-point favourites at the start of that game. As the bells rang out to close the game, it was an ugly performance, it was like Quasimodo - and they lost by 15!
Bristol have prepared for this for well over 12 months, that's why they brought the big coaches in, that's why they brought the big players in - but that means big pressure.
They've brought players in looking at promotion and that's not arrogance at all. Coach Andy Robinson said from the outset that if it doesn't happen this year (and he's got to say that), it's a case of when, because Bristol is a mad rugby city. They're moving stadiums, which means next Wednesday will be the last game at The Memorial Ground; everything is geared and planned for going towards the Premiership.
Robinson said pressure is a privilege - well, it can also be a pain in the backside.
Sweat and tears
These two teams know each other inside-out - it's who blinks first. You don't have to blast anyone away with brilliant rugby, you just have to win.
You can top the regular table, you can score 100-and-something tries but it doesn't matter, it comes down to 160 minutes of absolute sweat and tears.
It will be interesting - that first penalty, where will Nicky Robinson go? Will he go for the corner or will he go for posts? I reckon he'll goes for the posts.
Justin Burnell's London Welsh side will go out and know that they've already beaten them at home in November.
Don't miss this one.
To England, and I'd like to see Steffon Armitage go on the tour to New Zealand. I know everyone's on the bandwagon but I've been on it for two or three years.
It's absolutely ridiculous that the European Player of the Year is overlooked purely because he plays in France.
They used to use the excuse that their season goes on an extra week or two because of the French 14 final but look what's happened now - it's at exactly the same time as our final with Saracens and Northampton.
I spoke to Philippe Saint-Andre, who said that if Armitage was French he'd have him in his squad.
They've got to eat humble pie and get that guy on the plane because he'd add something to any team.