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Future Ulster ace Charles Piutau set for brief Wasps stint

By Jonathan Bradley

Charles Piutau will sign a six-month deal with Wasps before joining Ulster in time for next season.

In a move that proved unpopular in his homeland of New Zealand, the All Black, able to play wing, centre or full-back, has already agreed to a two-year contract in Belfast beginning in July 2016.

Despite impressing during the Rugby Championship, he missed out on selection for the World Cup and his New Zealand Rugby deal is set to run out after the competition.

Unable to sign for Ulster any earlier due to rules regarding quotas of non-Irish qualified players, the Auckland native had hoped to bridge the gap by turning out for the Blues in the first half of next year's Super Rugby.

That idea was rejected, however, by his home union leaving the 23-year-old in need of a club willing to take him on a short-term deal.

As such, before arriving at the Kingspan Stadium on July 1 - by which date the expiring deals of Franco van der Merwe, Nick Williams and Louis Ludik mean Ruan Pienaar is the province's only NIQ sure to be on the books - Piutau will spend the year at Wasps, joining the club who last year relocated to Coventry as soon as his ITM Cup commitments have concluded.

The 17-times capped Kiwi, who will now expect to appear against Leinster in the European Champions Cup, joins a squad that already contains the likes of England stars Christian Wade, James Haskell and Joe Launchbury and added Wallaby legend George Smith over the summer.

Speaking yesterday on the move, Piutau said: "When the opportunity arose to play for Wasps I was excited. It's a club with a proud history and one that has recruited very well over the last few seasons.

"I know Alapati Leiua from NZ and am looking forward to playing with him, as well as continuing to play alongside Frank Halai who I have played a lot of rugby with.

"I have also heard great things about playing at the Ricoh Arena and the crowd there and I look forward to making a contribution to what will hopefully be a very successful season."

The club's director of rugby Dai Young added: "The opportunity arose for us to sign Charles and we jumped at the chance. We're really pleased to have been able to bring on board someone of Charles' quality.

"His addition will bolster the strong recruitment we've already made for the new season, complementing the talented squad we already have in place."

Ulster will hope the deal ensures that, when their big-name signing does arrive, he does so match-hardened by six months of competitive rugby while also having already acclimatised to the game in the northern hemisphere.

There are two matches tonight in the Guinness PRO12 League.

NG Dragons play host to Italian visitors Zebre in Newport (7.05pm) while Connacht travel across the Irish Sea to take on Glasgow Warriors (7.35pm).

Belfast Telegraph


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