Steven Luatua will not feature in tonight’s Challenge Cup final as the Bears skipper awaits the birth of his child back in Bristol.
The club had organised a contingency plan to fly the All Black out on Friday morning, but with his partner, Olivia, still in labour, Luatua remains at home with our full support.
Director of Rugby Pat Lam said: “Steven was desperate to play and be with his teammates so we made sure we gave him every opportunity to get here, because he’s such an important leader for our team.
“But family always comes first and Steven and Olivia has everybody’s full support at the Bears. When we spoke this morning, I told him to focus on the arrival of his trophy and we’ll try and bring back a trophy for Bristol this evening.”
Joe Joyce starts in the second row, while Chris Vui switches to blindside flanker. Ed Holmes comes onto the bench and Siale Piutau takes on the captaincy.
Bristol Bears team to face RC Toulon in the European Challenge Cup final at Stade Maurice-David (8pm KO BST):
15. Max Malins; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Siale Piutau (c), 11. Alapati Leiua; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Harry Randall; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. Chris Vui, 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Ben Earl.
System players: 16. George Kloska, 17. Jake Woolmore, 18. John Afoa, 19. Joe Joyce, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Piers O’Conor, 23. Niyi Adeolokun.
How to watch Challenge Cup final
- Kick-off time: 8pm (BST)
- Venue: Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence
- TV channel: BT Sport 2 from 7.15pm
- Live stream: Via the BT Sport website or app
Bristol Bears vs Toulon prediction
Bristol suffered a disappointing but fairly competitive loss to Wasps in their Premiership semi-final on Sunday and will hope to rectify that with some silverware here but they will feel like the away side as they travel to neutral ground in France, especially without fans. T
heir opponents, Toulon, come into this match from a Top 14 win over Montpellier and have overcome British sides Leicester ad Scarlets in their last two Challenge Cup fixtures to reach this final. Bristol are the favourites here and should claim their first Challenge Cup trophy in a match that looks set to go over 40 points. Place your bet here with SpreadEX.