Bristol are to splash out £1.8m for Ulster's Piutau
Ulster star Charles Piutau is to be lured away from the province by the big money on offer at free-spending Bristol. The 25-year-old wing arrived at Kingspan Stadium last summer on a two-year deal that will expire at the end of this season, but he has already inked his next two-year contract, worth an eye-popping £900,000 per year.
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The English Championship club have already added former Leinsterman Ian Madigan to their ranks as they look to make it back to the big time.
The former All Black came to Belfast amid much fanfare after stand-out displays for Blues and Wasps, delivering on the hype in a debut season that saw him score nine tries and scoop the PRO12 Player of the Year award.
But with former Connacht boss Pat Lam having made his signing a priority as soon as it was known he himself would be joining Bristol, Ulster were always likely to face an uphill battle to keep their marquee man.
Director of Rugby Les Kiss had previously stated his desire to hold on to Piutau beyond the end of this season, and it is believed the province were willing to offer their highest earner an improved pay packet, but they were blown out of the water by a deal that is thought to be bettered only by Dan Carter's at Racing 92.
Piutau, who will expect his new employers to once again be a Premiership club by the time he arrives, begins his final season in Ulster colours against the Cheetahs at home on Friday, September 1.