Charles Piutau: Bristol to sign Ulster and New Zealand utility back

Charles Piutau
Charles Piutau will team up with his brother Siale - the Tonga captain - at Bristol

English Championship club Bristol have signed Ulster and New Zealand utility back Charles Piutau on a two-year deal, starting from the summer of 2018.

The 25-year-old played in 17 Tests for the All Blacks between 2013 and 2015.

The former Wasps player arrived at Pro14 side Ulster in 2016 after playing for Super Rugby outfit Auckland Blues.

"It's a massive signing for us. We talked him through our vision and that really excited Charles," Bristol head coach Pat Lam told BBC Radio Bristol.

But Lam rejected reports that Piutau will be paid £1m per year during his time at Bristol, adding: "Certainly that's off the mark.

"Every team has a salary cap and their budget. The great thing with Bristol is that it's always operated beneath the salary cap. We have good ownership and a good board and they're very supportive of the plans for the squad that I want to build."

'Extremely hard to leave'

During his debut season for Ulster, Piutau made 23 appearances and was their joint-top try scorer with nine tries.

"It was a very hard decision as I have really enjoyed my first year at Ulster," Piutau told his current club's website.

"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."

His performances last season for Ulster earned him the Pro12 Player of the Year and the Ulster Player of the Year awards.

Ulster's operations director, Bryn Cunningham said that the province were unable to match Bristol's offer for the player.

"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," Cunningham said.

"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."

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