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Hughes starts as Lam's shock Bristol selection dubbed 'greatest bench' in history

By Ian Cameron
Bristol Bears' Semi Radradra during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Bristol Bears at The Recreation Ground (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Bristol Bears head coach Pat Lam has thrown a massive curveball in his selection for his side’s Heineken Champions Cup match with Sale Sharks, dropping his star players to the bench and bringing re-called loanee Nathan Hughes straight back into the team.

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Hughes had been sent out on loan by Lam earlier in the season, the former England No.8 seemingly unable to break into the Bristol first team after returning from a string of injuries.

However, Hughes shone in a brief loan spell for Bath, and was recalled Lam for the European duty. Hughes had not been listed for the Heineken Champions Cup for Bath, but had been for Bristol, triggering Lam’s decision to recall the in-form back row.

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He will be joined England tighthead Kyle Sinckler, who also returns for Champions Cup clash. Bryan Byrne is named at hooker, while Jake Woolmore returns to the front row and Sam Jeffries is named on the openside. Wallaby Luke Morahan joins Jack Bates and Alapati Leiua in the back three for the first time since February 5th.

In the midfield, Piers O’Conor teams up with Sam Bedlow, while at halfback, England scrum half Harry Randall is paired with Callum Sheedy.

What’s maybe more perplexing about the selection is decision to drop the team’s three All Blacks and team superstar Semi Radradra to the replacements bench.

Lam has selected John Afoa, Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau as replacements, as well as in form back row Fitz Harding, one of the finds of the season for the struggling Bears.

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Put simply, Lam has has huge firepower to call upon late in the game. One fan dubbed it the ‘Greatest bench in the history of union’.

BRISTOL BEARS: 15. Luke Morahan, 14. Jack Bates, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Sam Bedlow, 11. Alapati Leiua, 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Harry Randall; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Bryan Byrne, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Joe Joyce (c), 6. Chris Vui, 7. Sam Jeffries, 8. Nathan Hughes.

REPLACEMENTS: 16. Harry Thacker, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. John Afoa, 19. Steven Luatua, 20. Fitz Harding, 21. Andy Uren, 22. Semi Radradra, 23. Charles Piutau.

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