Charles Piutau signs short-term deal with Wasps Rugby
All Black signs six-month deal at Ricoh Arena before Ulster switch
Ahead of joining Ulster in the summer, Charles Piutau will play this season for Wasps in the Aviva Premiership.
Back in March, the 23-year-old agreed to switch New Zealand for Belfast in time for the 2016/17 season but the lucrative deal caused quite a stir in his homeland.
New Zealand Rugby decreed that he would not be permitted to continue with his native Auckland Blues in Super Rugby until the move and, with Ulster unable to bring him to the Pro12 any earlier due to restrictions on non-Irish qualified players, Piutau was left to find employment elsewhere for the next nine months.
As such, before arriving at the Kingspan Stadium on July 1 – by which date the expiring deals of Franco van der Merwe, Nick Williams and Louis Ludik mean Ruan Pienaar is the province’s only NIQ sure to be on the books – Piutau will spend this year at Wasps, the Premiership outfit who re-located from London to Coventry during last season.
In what should be a mutually beneficial arrangement, the 17-times capped Kiwi will join a star-studded Wasps side who have already added his former Blues teammate Frank Halai and Wallaby legend George Smith to a playing squad that contains the likes of Christian Wade, James Haskell and Joe Launchbury.
Ulster meanwhile will hope their new star’s short-term move ensures that he arrives sharp and already acclimatised to rugby in the northern hemisphere.
Having his future settled should bring some belated relief to Piutau who has endured a turbulent time since agreeing to join Neil Doak’s side.
While he subsequently appeared during the Rugby Championship – scoring a try against Argentina and earning man-of-the-match honours against South Africa – he still did not make the 31-man selection for the World Cup.
With rumours rife that Waisake Naholo had the edge for a squad place due to Piutau’s contractual status, the outside back addressed media in his homeland over the weekend for the first time since finding out he would not be a part of the global showpiece.
"I've no regrets at all," he said.
"It's what I thought but the coaches reassured me that (the Ulster switch) wasn't part of it.
"I knew when I made that decision that this may be something that counts against me, but I'm happy with what I decided and now I'll move forward.
"At the end of the day, some of my skill-sets on the field, they thought wasn't where they wanted them to be, compared to some of the other outside backs that they chose.
"That's their opinion and I guess I'm happy with the performances I've put out there and I gave it out there.
"I suppose that at the end of the day tough choices had to be made.”