NEWPORT'S Ryan Edwards has left Bristol after nine years with the Bears.

The 29-year-old winger played for the Dragons at age-grade level but it was while he was playing for the University of the West of England that the former St Julians pupil got his big break.

He was spotted by the Bristol coaching staff and made his debut for the West Country club in 2011 against the Cornish Pirates in the British and Irish Cup.

Edwards made 84 appearances in the Championship and Premiership, crossing for 30 tries.

He returned from long-term injury last season but failed to make an outing for the Bears and moved to Cardiff Blues, who he briefly played for in 2018, on loan in February.

South Wales Argus:

Edwards, who first played the game at Newport High School Old Boys, was hoping to showcase his talent ahead of his summer contract expiry but was denied by the coronavirus pandemic.

He came off the bench in the loss to Connacht in Galway and scored a try in the win against Benetton at the Arms Park before the Guinness PRO14 season was suspended.

Edwards was one of 20 leavers announced by the Bears, along with Ospreys-bound Mat Protheroe and Nicky Thomas.

Director of rugby Pat Lam said: "We had a very emotional online team farewell to honour all our leavers last Friday, but I would like to publicly thank all our departing players for contributing to our journey during their time at Bristol Bears.

"All these men have committed themselves to the club and our vision on and off the field – we are extremely grateful for that.

"I believe all those that are moving on leave the programme as better players and better people through the time and commitment they put into their own growth, as well as to the team and the development of this club.

"They've all played their part and we wish them the very best for the future.

"Although the pandemic means we had to recognise our leavers online compared to what we would do in a normal season, everybody will be welcomed back to celebrate the part they played for Bristol Bears at the conclusion of the 2019/20 season."

Joining Edwards in leaving Bristol, who are scheduled to welcome the Dragons to Ashton Gate in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup, are the retiring Jordan Crane, Will Hurrell, Aly Muldowney and Tom Lindsay.

James Lay, Jordan Lay and Adrian Choat are returning to New Zealand while Ian Madigan joins Ulster.

Joe Batley has signed with Worcester, while Nic Stirzaker, Lewis Thiede, Shaun Malton, Luke Daniels, Sam Graham, Ollie Dawe, Luke Hamilton and Brian Byrne also leave.

Director of rugby Pat Lam is set to welcome seven new signings for next season, including England prop Kyle Sinckler.

Semi Radradra, Chris Cook and Mitch Eadie are also joining, with Ben Earl and Max Malins due to arrive on loan from Saracens. Fiji's Siva Naulago is set to arrive in the autumn.