THE Cornish Pirates meet Greene King Championship leaders Bristol for the third time this season when they travel to The Memorial Ground on Sunday (1pm), writes Dick Straughan.
Sunday's 19-15 win over Jersey will give the Pirates, who yesterday confirmed the signing of young New Zealand scrum half Conner Fullerton, renewed confidence after a winless streak in the league stretching back to Boxing Day but they will have to be on top form if they are to record their first win in Bristol since 2005.
Wes Davies and Gerald Arasa scored the Pirates tries that day as they held on for a shock 18-11 victory and although well placed in several recent fixtures to emulate that success they have never quite managed to hang on.
Bristol, currently five points clear at the top of the table after 17 games, have already signalled their intention to win promotion to the Premiership in May and are recruiting strongly for next season.
However, with two wins under their belt already against Bristol this season Cornish Pirates Director of Rugby Ian Davies believes that despite the formidable challenge facing his squad, the pressure is all on the West Countrymen.
He said: "We are two nil up and we want to make it three. Some of our fans have jumped on the bandwagon of criticising us in recent weeks but the boys are putting a lot of endeavour in week in week out."
"We are where we are in the league because we are a mid-table squad. We have had a lot of injuries and a lot of youngsters coming through and they are all working really hard. You can't criticise them for that."
He added: "Bristol are riding really high and we are expecting a very tough battle up there because they certainly won't want to lose a third game against us.
"Then we slowly build for London Welsh before Plymouth, Nottingham and Pontypridd. Everything is coming together quite nicely but we just need to get a few more bodies fit and back on the park."
Davies was full of praise for debutant full-back Max Bodilly after his try scoring debut against Jersey but had a further Injury concern as influential lock Darren Barry was forced off with a shoulder problem.
He added: "It's not great for us that he is injured because he has been fantastic this year and it's no surprise he has had Premiership interest. But Neale Patrick came off the bench and proved a lot."
One man who will be back in action for the Pirates this weekend is No.8 Tom Duncan who has returned to the club after a successful loan spell in the Welsh Premiership with Aberavon.
On the signing of Fullerton, Davies said: "With Gavin (Cattle) needing an operation and Mike Pope currently injured this is a very timely boost for the squad."
Cornish Pirates (from): Bodilly, Holland, Goss, Riley, Moyle, Fatialofa, Hallett, Kessell, Sinclair, Hendrickson, Dancer, Cahill, Carpenter, Prescott, Andrew, Davies, Channon, Graulich, Patrick, Carrick-Smith, Morgan, Cheesman, Bolwell, Atkinson, Parker, McGlone and Duncan.
A Pirates reunion of past and present players, organised by the Pirates Amateurs is being held this Saturday, from 12.30pm in the Westholme clubhouse.
A lunch of curry or chilli will be served at 1.30pm, and the £6 price also includes entrance to the Amateurs match with Veor in the Cornwall & Devon League (2.30pm).
All are welcome, but please contact Scott Dugdale to confirm attendance on 07745189922 or Paul Greaves on 01736 365324.