Missing man - Steven Luatua (C/blue jersey) is set to attend the birth of his child rather than play for Bristol in the European Challenge Cup final

London (AFP) - Bristol captain Steven Luatua will miss Friday’s European Challenge Cup final against Toulon in France so the former All Black can attend the birth of his child.

The English club were prepared to fly Luatua out to Aix-en-Provence, the venue for the final, on Friday morning, but with his partner Olivia still in labour, Luatua has decided to remain at home with her in Bristol.

“Steven was desperate to play and be with his team-mates so we made sure we gave him every opportunity to get here, because he’s such an important leader for our team,” Bristol coach Pat Lam told the Bristol Post.

“But family always comes first and Steven and Olivia has everybody’s full support at the Bears. When we spoke this morning, I told him to focus on the arrival of his trophy and we’ll try and bring back a trophy for Bristol this evening.”

Luatua’s absence has seen Joe Joyce come off the bench to start in the second row, with Chris Vui switching to blindside flanker.

Ed Holmes comes onto the bench and Siale Piutau takes over as captain.

Luatua’s withdrawal is a further blow to Bristol’s hopes of winning their first major trophy in 37 years, with full-back Charles Piutau, England No 8 Nathan Hughes and scrum-half Andy Uren all injured.