Injured Bristol backs Charles Piutau and Henry Purdy will miss Friday’s European Challenge Cup final clash against Toulon on Friday and rugby director Pat Lam is also assessing lock Chris Vui (calf muscle) and No8 Nathan Hughes (ribs), who suffered knocks during the Gallagher Premiership play-off loss to Wasps three days ago.
Full-back Piutau and wing Purdy have been sidelined for recent Bristol games because of achilles and hamstring injuries, respectively. Max Malins wore the No15 shirt against Wasps, with Piers O’Conor on the wing.
“There are a few niggles we have got to overcome before Friday, so I have given the guys as much time as possible. Obviously, Nathan Hughes and Chris Vui from the weekend, but the game has come too early for Charles Piutau and Henry Purdy,” said Bristol boss Lam.
“They won’t be making it for this week. It has naturally been quite a light couple of days of training to make sure we have a full tank and are ready to go for Friday.”
Bristol will need to bounce back quickly from a 47-24 drubbing at the Ricoh Arena as they target their first European trophy. English clubs have won eleven of the 23 previous Challenge Cup finals, with Bristol and Toulon both unbeaten in this season’s tournament.
A low-scoring nail-biter could be on the cardshttps://t.co/Ed68HcYD0Z
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 13, 2020
They meet at the 6,000-capacity Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence, 20 miles from Marseille, with the Bristol squad travelling on Thursday via a charter flight, then returning first thing Saturday morning. “With Covid, we have to be in the hotel, we can’t leave the hotel and it’s a 9pm kick-off,” Lam added.
“We have a chartered plane on Thursday, we are the only ones in the hotel and it is about eight miles from the ground. We will have a police escort and straight in there to the ground. Then up early the next day out and back in Bristol by 10.30am on Saturday.”
Reflecting on the Wasps result, Lam said: “The thing that is pleasing is that wasn’t the end (of the season) last week. We didn’t give a good account of ourselves. This week, at the end of the 80 minutes, there is a cup at the end of it.
“We all understand the enormity of the challenge, and this is where we want to be every year at the business end. This is the last time we plan on being in this competition as we move on to the Champions Cup next year, and hopefully the year after that.”
The Bristol squad and staff will have a three-week break ahead of next season, which starts on November 22 – against Wasps in Coventry – following a 13th game in just 53 days.
“This is just a three-week winter break if you like,” Lam added. “The boys know they have to look after themselves and be ready as soon as we come back. We will get a break with our families – it’s tough we don’t get a chance to go home or take them somewhere warmer. I will probably go to Center Parcs or somewhere local.
“The support staff and coaches, the midweek games – you review one, preview another – and it is happening quickly. Some of us don’t know the time of the day or what day it is.
“The families have been great as it has been tough on them, but we are committed and it is what we enjoy doing and we all love our jobs, but it is about getting the balance right.”
"I definitely believe I wouldn't be the player I am if I hadn't been told from a young age I was too small"@harry_thacker talks @BristolBears , Pat Lam, leaving Leicester Tigers & the difference it makes when someone believes in you, with @heagneyl ???https://t.co/xZh0FnE9p1
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 13, 2020
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