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Steven Luatua a late withdrawal from Bristol squad

Bristol Bears captain Steven Luatua will miss the Challenge Cup final after deciding to remain with his partner as they await the birth of their child.

Plans had been put in place for Luatua to possibly join up with the rest of the squad, who arrived in Aix-en-Provence on Wednesday, this morning after being selected to start in the back row. But that will not be the case with the New Zealander’s partner Olivia in labour.

Siale Piutau will now lead Bears against Toulon, as director of rugby Pat Lam is forced into switching Chris Vui from lock to the blindside flank with Joe Joyce now partnering Dave Attwood in the second row.

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 is such an important leader for our team.

“But family always comes first and Steven and Olivia have everybody’s full support at the Bears. When we spoke this morning (Friday), I told him to focus on the arrival of his trophy and we will try and bring back a trophy for Bristol this evening.”

Bristol Bears v Toulon – Challenge Cup final

Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau (capt), 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 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

Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 John Afoa, 19 TBC, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Piers O’Conor, 23 Niyi Adeolokun

Toulon: 15 Gervais Cordin, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Serin; 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 2 Anthony Etrillard (capt), 3 Beka Gigashvili, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 6 Charles Ollivon, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 8 Sergio Parisse

Replacements: Bastien Soury, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Brian Alainu’uese, 20 Swan Rebbadj, 21 Julien Ory, 22 Tane Takulua, 23 Masivesi Dakuwaqa

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