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Kiwis bemoan losing another exciting talent

By Michael Sadlier

It hasn't gone down too well back in New Zealand, where news of Charles Piutau's impending departure for Ulster was met with disbelief and disappointment.

Media outlets have bemoaned the loss of a young and versatile talent who was expected to push on for the All Blacks - for whom he has played 14 times - after what was assumed would be more exposure at this autumn's World Cup.

And yet there was a sense of resignation to the situation which has seen so many players previously leave to earn their crust outside New Zealand though this, admittedly, would be rather more common for those at the end of their international careers with notables Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith all heading to France to finish their careers after the World Cup.

Gregor Paul, in the respected New Zealand Herald, contrasted the mixed emotions now being felt by those who run the game as, after having just brought Jerome Kaino back home, they have had to now deal with the loss of Piutau.

Describing a player "the All Blacks definitely didn't want to lose", Paul went on to write that Piutau had essentially been made an offer he couldn't refuse and that part of his thinking might have actually been to replicate Kaino's career path.

"It is understood he (Piutau) has been offered an incredible deal to play with Ulster and has already signed. He is believed to have been persuaded that he can emulate Kaino and enjoy a lucrative overseas stint and then pick up his All Black career once he returns before the 2019 World Cup," he wrote.

It's a risk of course, but one that the promising young player has weighed up and decided to go with.

While Ulster Rugby remained tight-lipped yesterday, those in the Land of the Long White Cloud have already accepted that another young player will be jetting off next year.

Elsewhere, Liam Napier of stuff.co.nz wrote: "All Blacks utility Charles Piutau has dropped a major bombshell by signing a two-year deal with Irish club Ulster that's thought to be worth close to NZ$1m (£500,000) a season.

"Piutau's sudden post-World Cup departure comes as a shock to all involved. It was thought he was poised to re-sign, alongside team-mate Steven Luatua, with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues within the next two weeks.

"Clearly, the chance to bank NZ$2m (£1m) in a favourable tax system and set himself up for life was too good to turn down."

Napier went on to point out that the financial muscle being flexed outside New Zealand has led to the emergence of a worrying trend which is now seeing other younger players also walking away from playing in their native land as opposed to waiting until near the end of their playing days.

Citing Bundee Aki, Rene Ranger, Frank Halai, Andre Taylor and Luke Braid, Napier went on to point out that these players have all jumped at what is "mind-boggling money" being thrown their way.

As usual, market forces prevail.

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