Charles Piutau will prove he's worth record £1.8m deal, maintains Bristol chief
Bristol Rugby have defended the huge £900k-per-year salary used to lure Ulster's Charles Piutau away from Belfast, saying the former All Black superstar will be worth every penny of the record deal.
The coming season will be the Kiwi's last at Kingspan Stadium, with free-spending Bristol offering a benchmark two-year deal which is believed will make him the best paid player in the world this time next year.
Having also splashed the cash to bring in new coach Pat Lam from Connacht, Piutau's former Blues and All Black team-mate Steven Luatua and ex-Leinster out-half Ian Madigan, the club from the south west of England are hot favourites for Championship promotion, but Piutau's double-your-money deal is understood to be going through regardless of the outcome of this season.
And while the substantial raise he will receive on his £500k-a-year deal at Ulster has raised eyebrows all over the globe, the club's Chief Operations Officer Mark Tainton believes the megabucks offer shows just how in-demand the former All Black was.
"Charles is one of the best rugby players in the world -he has proved that over the years," said Tainton. "When he played for the Blues he was averaging 1.5 tries a game, which shows what kind of quality he has got.
"There were many clubs around the world trying to get his signature and we are pleased he has come to us.
"He has looked at what we are trying to do and he believes in what we are trying to do, and he wants to add to that. There was massive competition. It didn't happen overnight.
"It was a long process - many phone calls, many conversations - but we are delighted he has come in."
Lam, who worked with Piutau in New Zealand, is, along with the presence of the player's brother Siale in Bristol, believed to have been a large motivating factor behind the move.
"Charles is still an international quality player," said Lam of a 25-year-old who hasn't featured for the All Blacks since 2015 thanks to his decision to move north.
"Certainly a lot of teams were keen to get him and for him to come here based on our vision, our purpose of what we want to do for Bristol Rugby, is fantastic.
"Without a doubt, when I sat with Charles and spoke to him about the vision and where we wanted to go, that was what excited him most, the vision of what we're going to do.
"It was the same with his brother, with Steven Luatua, and with the other players we've brought in.
"If you have a vision for what you want to do, that gets guys excited and Charles certainly is.
"Hopefully by the time he arrives, we do the job (get promotion)."
For his part, after signing the sport's wealthiest deal, Piutau agreed that he had been sold on the club's bright future.
"To join Bristol Rugby and be part of the vision that Pat Lam and his coaching team has is very appealing to me," said the man who was nominated for Premiership Player of the Year at Wasps when last in England during the 2015-16 season.
"I understand the challenges that lie ahead for the club but I firmly believe Bristol can once again become a major force in English and European rugby."