Ulster go for broke in recruitment of world class Kiwi
Ulster are putting their money where their mouth is by splashing the cash to sign All Black Charles Piutau with the world class 23-year-old coming to Belfast on what is understood to be a lucrative two-year deal worth just over £1m.
The shock signing has yet to be officially confirmed at the Kingspan Stadium but it's front-page news in New Zealand - where rugby fans are, frankly, stunned by the massive statement of intent from Ulster, with rising star Piutau in line to join the squad in January 2016.
But Ulster fans are both excited and delighted with the capture because the hugely talented utility back, who can play at centre, wing or full-back, will add quality to next season's Ulster squad to be overseen by fellow Kiwi Les Kiss.
Piutau is the sort of top class player they need to launch a significant challenge for European glory.
Piutau’s move, which is expected to be officially revealed by Ulster later today, has stunned his native country, where it was assumed that he would stay with Super Rugby side the Blues following his likely involvement with reigning champions New Zealand at this autumn’s World Cup.
Though not a frontline All Black, Piutau has played 14 times for them and was widely tipped to have a bright future in the senior side, with whom he toured Europe last year, winning caps in the wins over Scotland and Wales.
Piutau’s departure has been viewed with shock back in New Zealand, where it has been suggested that Ulster simply made the player an offer he couldn’t refuse and that he may yet return in time to be considered for the All Blacks squad for the 2019 World Cup.
Meanwhile, as expected, there was bad news for Stuart Olding yesterday with the confirmation that his season is at an end, as are his hopes of making Ireland’s World Cup squad.
The 22-year-old is now facing up to nine months out of the game after sustaining a serious knee injury in Ulster’s 36-17 win over Cardiff Blues last Friday.
The two-times capped Ireland international suffered a cruciate ligament injury (ACL) early in last week’s game and was stretchered off.
Olding will now undergo surgery on his right knee for the second time in his career after missing most of last season due to the same injury.
Last Friday was also the unfortunate Olding’s first game back for Ulster since picking up an elbow injury in January’s European defeat at Toulon.
On a more positive note, however, Ruan Pienaar is expected to be available for Saturday week’s game in Connacht after suffering some soft tissue bruising in a ‘stinger’ to his shoulder against the Blues which saw him leave the field in the second half.