Ulster complete signing of All Black Charles Piutau
Ulster have confirmed the signing of highly-rated All Blacks' utility back Charles Piutau on a two-year deal.
The 23-year-old will arrive at Kingspan Stadium on 1 July 2016.
Piutau, capped 14 times for the Kiwis, admitted it was a "difficult decision" to leave Auckland Blues and New Zealand rugby.
"I am looking forward to moving to Belfast, experiencing a new culture and playing in the northern hemisphere," said Piutau.
The move has sent shockwaves through New Zealand as it was thought the player was poised to resign with Blues and New Zealand Rugby.
|Charles Piutau fact file|
|Born Salesi Tu'ipulotu 'Charles' Piutau in Auckland October 1991|
|Represented Tonga at Junior World Championship in 2010|
|Top try-scorer in New Zealand's 2011 Junior World Championship-winning team|
|Made 36 appearances for Auckland Blues in Super Rugby|
|Made All Blacks' debut v France 2013|
|Scored four tries in 14 games for New Zealand|
Since making his All Blacks' debut against France in 2013, he has played in 14 tests and scored four tries, and was expected to make their World Cup squad in the autumn.
The Auckland-born international has played 36 matches for the Blues in Super Rugby, scoring eight tries.
"It was a difficult decision to leave the Blues and New Zealand rugby as I have really enjoyed my time with them so far," he added.
"However, when I spoke with Ulster I was impressed with what they had to say and I am excited about their future plans.
"I can't wait to get stuck in with my new team-mates in July 2016."
Equally at home at centre, wing or fullback, Piutau will add considerable firepower to an already explosive Ulster back-line.
The capture of one of New Zealand's rising stars is a huge coup for Ulster team manager Bryn Cunningham, who said the signing is an indication of the ambition at the province.
"To secure someone of Charles' ability is hugely exciting for us as it shows that the best players want to come and represent Ulster Rugby and that the province can attract world-class talent," he said.
"Our aim is to produce local players with the ability to play for Ulster and Ireland and then supplement them with top-quality internationals.
"Charles, with his experience with the All Blacks, fits perfectly in that model.
"As he has shown for both the Blues and New Zealand, he has searing pace and great feet.
"He has an exceptional offloading game and he is rock-solid in defence. He also possesses leadership qualities and maturity beyond his years and that came across strongly in my conversations with him.
"We could not ask for a more rounded, professional person and I believe that he will add enormous value to our squad both on and off the pitch."