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All things Bristol Bears (Merged)


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Bristol Bears have been forced into a late change for Friday's European Challenge Cup final against Toulon.

Already without injured duo Charles Piutau and Nathan Hughes, captain Steven Luatua will also be absent as his partner is due to give birth.

The 20:00 BST kick-off in Aix-en-Provence will be the West Country club's first ever European final.

Kiwi back Piutau misses out with an Achilles problem while England number eight Hughes has injured his ribs.

Will Capon (ankle), Max Lahiff (calf), Andy Uren (foot) and Henry Purdy (hamstring) all miss out too.

Up to 1,000 fans will be allowed to attend Friday's final in Aix-en-Provence, as the English side bid for their first major silverware since 1983.

'It'll be our noisiest atmosphere for months'

Bears fly-half Callum Sheedy told BBC Radio Bristol: "If you'd said 1,000 people for a European final last year, you'd have laughed, you'd have said that's pathetic, but now, it'll be crazy.

"It'll be the noisiest atmosphere we've had in six, seven or eight months, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Director of rugby Pat Lam added: "That'll be exciting. It's pity our Bristol fans didn't get an opportunity for that but it'll help create the atmosphere and hopefully the Toulon drums come out.

"Having noise and atmosphere increased is good."

Toulon are aiming for their fourth European trophy and first in the Challenge Cup competition, having won the Champions Cup three times in a row between 2013 and 2015.

The French side also reached the Challenge Cup final in 2010 and 2012.

"For the last 10-15 years Toulon have been one of the biggest forces in Europe," Sheedy added. "They've got world-class internationals and strength all around the park, with a very heavy pack.

"We need to be on our game in all aspects. If we slip up in any area, they're good enough to punish us."

The match will be played on an artificial 4G pitch, on which Sheedy added: "I don't mind it personally. It's a fast track and we like to play a fast game.

"It's a cup final and I'm sure the lads won't mind their knees being a bit sore after it."

Toulon's starting XV includes Italy legend Sergio Parisse, who won this competition with Stade Francais in 2017, scoring a try in the final against Gloucester.

Bristol: Malins; Morahan, Radradra, S Piutau (capt), Leiua; Sheedy, Randall; Y Thomas, Thacker, Sinckler, Attwood, Joyce, Vui, D Thomas, Earl.

Replacements: Kloska, Woolmore, Afoa, Holmes, Heenan, Kessell, O'Conor, Adeolokun.

Toulon: Cordin; Heem, Toeava, Paia'aua, Villiere; Carbonel, Serin; Gros, Etrillard, Gigashvili, Etzebeth, Taofifenua, Ollivon, Lakafia, Parisse.

Replacements: Soury, Fresia, Setiano, Alainu'uese, Rebbadj, Ory, Takulua, Dakuwaqa.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

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1 hour ago, TomF said:

Bristol on standby should Wasps not make the final.. yikes.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/54574710

I dont think that's the right thing to do at all. If Wasps forfeit, Exeter should win. Why leave Bristol waiting around potentially for nothing and at the most a very very hollow and incorrect trophy, when the players should be resting/on holiday.

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Not massively behind, but frustrating after a dream start. Hopefully we will regroup after HT but I think a combination of again only ourselves to blame plus too many key players missing will be too big an ask.

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