European Challenge Cup final: Bristol Bears v Toulon

Nathan Hughes
Nathan Hughes helped Bristol beat Bordeaux-Begles 37-20 after extra time in the semi-finals
Date: Friday, 16 October Kick-off: 20:00 BST Venue: Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence, France Coverage: Listen live on BBC Radio Bristol, plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Bristol Bears will be without injured stars Charles Piutau and Nathan Hughes for Friday’s European Challenge Cup final against French side Toulon.

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.

The Bears have made six changes from the side that lost 47-24 to Wasps in Saturday’s Premiership semi-final.

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, Leiua; Sheedy, Randall; Y Thomas, Thacker, Sinckler, Attwood, Vui, Luatua (capt), D Thomas, Earl.

Replacements: Kloska, Woolmore, Afoa, Joyce, 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)

BBC News