Belfast Telegraph

European Champions Cup: Ulster-bound Kiwi turns on style as English outfit run amok at the RDS

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster-bound Charles Piutau earned man-of-the-match honours for Wasps yesterday as the Premiership outfit stormed the RDS for a 33-6 win that will seriously dent Leinster's hopes of making the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.

The 16-times capped All Black is due at Kingspan Stadium in the summer of 2016, but, in a story originally revealed by the Belfast Telegraph back in September, will play the remainder of this campaign in Coventry having originally hoped to stay at his native Auckland Blues until the Pro12 stint commences.

Speaking to the English press this weekend, the big-money signing stressed that he had no regrets over his planned move to Belfast despite subsequently missing out on New Zealand's victorious World Cup campaign and Wasps director of rugby Dai Young yesterday dismissed the notion that there would be any plans to tempt the standout fullback into reneging on his two-year deal with Les Kiss's side.

The 24-year-old crossed for the one-time London outfit's third try in the final moments of the Dublin clash, adding to prior scores from Christian Wade and Joe Simpson, but by that stage had long since ensured an eye-catching European debut after topping the charts in both carries and metres made.

Running from deep with real intent, his footwork and awareness when in possession caused Leo Cullen's side problems all afternoon in what was a record home European defeat for the three-time champions.

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When asked how he felt his star turn against their interprovincial rivals would be received by fans of his future team, Piutau said: "(It's a) hello to them for next season but I've got a job to do here for this season and I'm trying to focus on it and then move forward after that.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game. It's a credit to our boys for putting on a good performance and showing some good skills and a lot of heart.

"It's a great achievement for the team."

After the big win, Young praised the efforts of Piutau who made his debut for the club against Gloucester only last week.

"Ulster have got a fantastic player and you're going to see a lot of him over here in Ireland," he said.

"We've borrowed him for a year and we're certainly thrilled that he's doing a job for us.

"We were quite lucky to get him. Charles was contracted and couldn't go (to Ulster) this season, so they were looking for somewhere for him to go for the season.

"Our hand was straight up and I thought he did a great job today.

The former Cardiff Blues coach feels that with fellow All Black and former Auckland Blue Frank Halai also among the ranks, the Ricoh Arena was the perfect temporary landing spot for the man who also plays on the wing.

"He's been fantastic really," he added.

"It's helped that him and Frank know each other really well and Losi (Sailosi Tagicakibau) too, they were all in the same school. Losi used to bully him apparently but I don't believe that.

"That's helped, but we've got a good, friendly group here and he's fits in really well.

"People fit in a little easier on the back of wins than they do on losses, so that helps too."

The result throws what is sure to be an ultra-competitive pool wide open and Leinster travel to Bath this weekend knowing that Toulon - champions three years in a row - lie in wait for a daunting December double-header.

Belfast Telegraph


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