Classy Piutau can help take Ulster to the next level, says Tommy Bowe
With Charles Piutau set to finally make his Ulster debut this month, Tommy Bowe says this could be the province's deepest ever pool of backline talent.
Piutau, the 17-times capped All Black, was signed all the way back in April of 2015, and spent last year starring for Wasps in both the Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup.
The former Auckland Blues man has already expressed a preference for full-back, where Jared Payne excelled to start his Ulster career and returned to last season, but can also play on the wing or outside centre.
With Bowe himself coming back to fitness after a season virtually lost to injury, as well as Ireland internationals Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy, Les Kiss will be left with plenty of options for the wide berths too.
"It's going to be a serious competition," said two-time Lions tourist Bowe.
"Not just in the back three but in the centres too we're as strong as we've ever been. If we can all be fit then we'll all be pushing to be playing. That'll give the coaches a headache but one that I'm sure they're looking forward to. Who wouldn't want to have that situation where you can pick between some top players?
"Hopefully we'll play some good rugby."
Despite a season that finished with the all-too-familiar feeling of a defeat to Leinster, Ulster were doing just that in the latter rounds of the Pro12 with Bowe feeling that the addition of Piutau will drive the current crop to new heights.
"That's what it's all about," he said. "Listen, he's a class act. Whatever about him on the field, we've all seen that and we all know, but he's a great guy. He's a really strong addition to the squad. He's a really nice fella but he speaks up.
"He's got good views and opinions on the game, and he's been brilliant so far.
"New people coming into a squad does give players a sense that everyone has to keep improving. You can't sit back and rest on your laurels.
"With Charles coming in that adds a huge amount of enthusiasm to the squad but everybody still wants to be pushing for places. We're not thinking too much at the moment but when those big games come, you'll need to be at the very top of your game to be involved."
The classy Kiwi is one of six additions to this season's panel and Bowe has been impressed with what he has seen from all the new faces so far.
While Springbok Marcell Cotzee's debut will be delayed due to injury, prop Rodney Ah You has come over from Pro12 champions Connacht.
"I've played with him before," said Bowe as he recalled the pair's Irish duty together.
"He's some specimen and a great guy to have around. He's full of chat, but he's some talent as well. His strength scores are something else. I'm sure he'll be a good addition."