Sean Holley: Ross Rennie will remain in Bristol’s focus for rest of the season

Bristol coach reveals the mood at training as Scotland international announces his retirement from professional rugby

Sean Holley has admitted Ross Rennie will remain in Bristol Rugby’s focus for the rest of the season after the player announced his immediate retirement.

The Bristol head coach was reflecting on the surprise decision taken earlier today by the 28-year-old to call time on his playing career.

It’s pretty upsetting. We’ve got a lot of respect for Ross Rennie in what he’s done in his career as a person, and he’ll remain in our focus for the rest of the season that’s for sure.

Sean Holley

Rennie had been sidelined since picking up a neck injury during Bristol’s 59-14 win over Moseley in the British and Irish Cup in October, with the club revealing in December that the player was due to meet a specialist regarding a neural issue.

The Greene King IPA Championship league leaders have also had to contend with the loss of New Zealand-born Samoan flanker Jack Lam, who required shoulder surgery after the November internationals.

But despite the medical update from the club almost six weeks ago, there had been no indication that Rennie’s injury could have been career-ending until today’s shock announcement.

“It was quite poignant, melancholic this morning when he spoke to the squad,” Holley told Bristol Rugby TV.

“It’s a difficult decision, and an upsetting one, because there’s a reality for everybody, particularly the playing squad, that it can easily happen to somebody who is as strong a character and as good a player as Ross has been for us and in his career.

“He’s having to retire early and it effects everyone. It was quite an emotional morning, but on a much lesser scale we align with the forces because you just dust yourself off and move on.

“It’s pretty upsetting and we’ve got a lot of respect for Ross Rennie in what he’s done in his career as a person and he’ll remain in our focus for the rest of the season that’s for sure.”

Rennie joined Bristol on loan from Edinburgh in January 2014 after finding himself surplus to requirements and made a significant impact, as he helped the club reach the Greene King IPA Championship final.

He’ll be missed there and it’s up to the other senior guys to cover that and ensure he’s not as missed as perhaps you might think.

Sean Holley

Injury kept him from playing the aggregate defeat to London Welsh, but Rennie made a significant in his 12 months with the club, scoring seven tries in 13 appearances.

Holley also paid tribute to Rennie’s natural abilities as an openside flanker that helped the player win 20 international caps for Scotland, play at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and a Heineken Cup semi-final with Edinburgh in 2012.

“Ross, as an openside flanker, ran some tremendous attacking running lines, which is quite a natural ability to have,” Holley added.

“He scored a lot of tries in his career for an openside flanker.

“His link play was tremendous. He wasn’t the quickest openside I’ve worked with, but because of those running lines and awareness — his playing ability — he was able to read situations and became a good link for backs.

“[He’s] an intelligent young man, who was able to articulate very, very well and bring on other players, and those are the sort of characters you’re looking for as a coach, so a lot of endearing qualities and he’ll be sorely missed.

“We’re looking at Bristol as a culture that’s developing on and off the field.

“When you’re challenging for title, trophies and promotions those characters are very, very important — you can’t underestimate what they do off the field.

“We work a lot off the field now, whether it be analysis, the physical or medical department, and Ross has experience there.

“He’ll be missed there and it’s up to the other senior guys to cover that and ensure he’s not as missed as perhaps you might think.

Despite Rennie’s loss, Holley also revealed that he had no plans to bring in a replacement for Rennie this season.

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