Bristol Bears’ hopes of making a flying start to the return to their Gallagher Premiership have taken a significant blow after Charles Piutau was removed just 13 minutes after arriving on the pitch in the club’s final preseason friendly.
Piutau left the field with his arm in a sling on Saturday, as Bristol lost 12-14 to Connacht at Ashton Gate.
Even in an ideal scenario it would be a race against time to be fit for Bristol’s opener with Bath on Friday evening but RugbyPass understands that the injury could be much more serious, with one source suggesting a 4-6-month layoff for the former All Black.
The club have yet to confirm the severity of the injury, but director of rugby Pat Lam did acknowledge following the game that Piutau had damaged his shoulder.
Speaking to the Bristol Bears official website, Lam stated that it “looks like a shoulder (injury), so at the moment the medical team are with Charles and we’re hoping it’s not too serious and we’ll update everyone when we know a bit more.”
If Piutau were to miss a significant portion of the season, it would be a sizeable bump in the road in Bristol’s bid to consolidate their place in the Premiership, with only Worcester Warriors deemed a more likely candidate for the drop by the majority of bookmakers.
The signing of Piutau was seen as a statement of intent by the club and his displays for the All Blacks, and more recently Wasps and Ulster, were enough to suggest that he could be a difference-maker for Bristol in what will undoubtedly be a hard-contested relegation battle.
Luke Daniels, a summer signing from Ealing Trailfinders, and Luke Morahan, a former Australian international, would both be candidates to fill the void, should the Kiwi have to spend an extended period on the sidelines.
He was not the only player to suffer in the final weeks of preseason, with Wasps’ Jimmy Gopperth set to miss the majority of the 2018/19 season after undergoing a knee reconstruction following an injury also suffered against Connacht, whilst Northampton Saints’ new signing Dan Biggar left the field after just two minutes in his side’s friendly with Glasgow Warriors.
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