One-time Ireland international Niyi Adeolokun will make his Bristol debut on Sunday as he attempts to firmly grab a career lifeline after being surprisingly released by Connacht last May.
The 29-year-old Nigerian-born winger was capped by Ireland against Canada in November 2016, six months after he had helped a Connacht side coached by current Bristol boss Pat Lam to Guinness PRO12 glory with a win over Leinster in the Murrayfield decider.
Despite starting nine games before the 2019/20 campaign was suspended, Andy Friend called time on Adeolokun’s six-season stint at Connacht, leaving him without a club during the lockdown.
In the end, a call came from his old mentor Lam and having initially trained with the squad, he became one three players to sign short-term injury cover contracts on August 27.
Lam said at the time: “I was very surprised when he was let go. I stay in touch with a lot of the guys I coach, and there is obviously a lot of the boys in Connacht that I have got a lot of time for and I watch them closely.
Beautiful, simply beautiful ? https://t.co/3uB2mcGAAV
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 9, 2020
“Niyi had a couple of niggles and I gave him and a few of the others a run at the Barbarians as well because I know them well, I know their characters and there’s a lot of trust in there.
“I spoke to Niyi initially more to keep his head up when he was let go, and I know he had been training with Bundee Aki because they are great friends. But then later he rang me up and asked if he could come and train with us here.
“So he’s actually been here for a couple of weeks off his own back, just to get in training in an environment. And now with the injury, we have given him a contract until the end of the season. But he’s already been here just to train.”
Adeolokun will now start for Bristol 17 days after signing, the winger one of twelve changes to the side that secured maximum points in the victory over Northampton.
In the backline, Chris Cook makes his first start for the club, while Jack Bates, Max Malins and Ioan Lloyd also earn call-ups. In the pack, only Joe Joyce remains from Tuesday’s side.
Meanwhile, Wasps boss Lee Blackett has made seven changes to the starting line-up that beat Leicester on Wednesday. Joe Launchbury will captain the side on his 150th appearance for the club.
BRISTOL: 15. Ioan Lloyd; 14. Niyi Adeolokun, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Jack Bates; 10. Max Malins, 9. Chris Cook; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Will Capon, 3. Keiron Assiratti, 4. Ed Holmes, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. James Dun, 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Jake Heenan (capt). Reps: 16. Bryan Byrne, 17. Peter McCabe, 18. John Afoa, 19. John Hawkins, 20. Mitch Eadie, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Harry Ascherl, 23. Charlie Powell.
WASPS: 15. Matteo Minozzi; 14. Zach Kibirige, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Jimmy Gopperth, 11. Josh Bassett; 10. Jacob Umaga, 9. Dan Robson; 1. Ben Harris, 2. Tom Cruse, 3. Kieran Brookes, 4. Joe Launchbury (capt), 5. Will Rowlands, 6. Brad Shields, 7. Jack Willis, 8. Tom Willis. Reps: 16. Gabriel Oghre, 17. Tom West, 18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19. James Gaskell, 20. Thomas Young, 21. Ben Vellacott, 22. Ryan Mills, 23. Marcus Watson.
Sensational first start by the rookie ?https://t.co/biKoUaOl9d
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 10, 2020
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