RUGBY: Piutau to join Bristol

Charles Piutau in action against Ospreys.
Charles Piutau in action against Ospreys.

Ulster Rugby have confirmed Charles Piutau has agreed to join Bristol Rugby at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Having joined the Province last summer, Piutau made a significant impact in his debut season, collecting both the Guinness PRO12 Player of the Year and Bank of Ireland Ulster Player of the Year awards. He made 23 appearances in total and was joint-top scorer with nine tries.

“It was a very hard decision as I have really enjoyed my first year at Ulster,” Piutau said.

“The welcome that I had and the way I have been looked after has been the best of any club I’ve been at. The management and players really made me feel part of the family and that will make it extremely hard to leave when the time comes.

“The biggest consideration in my decision to join Bristol is the opportunity to play with my brother Siale, as he approaches the end of his career. It will also be great to work with Steven Luatua and Pat Lam again.

“I love Ulster and I’ve enjoyed learning about the history and culture of the Province.

“I must say a big thank you to the Ulster fans, who genuinely love the club and show unwavering support to the players. It is the first time that I have experienced supporters who are so passionate and loyal. The atmosphere on match nights at Kingspan Stadium is top of the list of things I’ll miss.

“Last season wasn’t a good reflection on us as players but I think we will grow in the season ahead and be much more competitive. We have a new coaching team in place and they have brought fresh ideas and skills, which the boys have responded well to. It is sad that this will be my last season in Belfast but I will be 100% focused on ensuring that I finish my Ulster career on a high.”

Prior to his move to Ulster, the 25-year-old played for Auckland in the National Provincial Championship, the Blues Super Rugby franchise and English Premiership outfit Wasps. He has also represented the All Blacks on 17 occasions.

“Charles is a fantastic player who delivered many match-winning contributions in his first season with us, and I’m sure he’ll produce plenty more over the next ten months,” said Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham.

“I know that he remains committed to helping us reach our potential in both the Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup.

“It is disappointing that Charles is moving on, but salaries for the world’s best players are rising year-on-year and are ultimately determined by what one club is prepared to pay for an individual.

“We have a strong commercial programme in place and that has allowed us to attract top overseas players and to retain our best home-grown talent in what is a hugely competitive market. Our strategy is to continue to recruit world class players in the seasons ahead.”