Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

It's looking all black for the new Ulster star Charles Piutau

Piutau facing backlash in New Zealand over shock move

By Michael Sadlier

It seems that the fallout from Charles Piutau's shock decision to join Ulster has only intensified back in his home country of New Zealand.

And it would appear that the 23-year-old's move to Belfast in July 2016, on a two-year deal believed to be worth £1m, has now put his potential involvement in the All Blacks squad for this autumn's World Cup in considerable doubt.

It is also possible that he may not even be able to play for the Blues in next season's Super Rugby championship as this will require the agreement of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) which may not be forthcoming as, by then, the player will no longer be in the frame for All Blacks involvement.

The game's governing authorities in New Zealand are still furious over Piutau's big money move and, especially so, after it emerged that he had a two-year NZR deal on the table - some stories in New Zealand suggest that he had actually signed it - when Ulster Rugby made a seemingly late and unexpected move to bag him.

It's nothing new that players leave New Zealand, but Piutau's move seems to have struck a particularly raw nerve and the game's authorities may attempt to make an example of him to discourage other top grade players, on the verge of being Test regulars, from doing likewise. It could now be a tricky 15 months for the hugely talented player.

This situation does offer up a tantalising possibility of Piutau maybe arriving here sooner than anticipated, but that is not a realistic option as there is no space for the 14-times capped All Black as all Ulster's Non-Irish Qualified players are still in contract next season.

So, Piutau will either have to just bide his time or find a stop-gap contract at home or somewhere else before he arrives for pre-season training at the Kingspan Stadium in summer 2016.

He hinted at such a scenario unfolding when explaining his move and addressing the fact that the Blues - who want him involved next season - may be forced to go without him.

"I'll find another option or another team to play for until I have to be over there (Ulster)," he said. "I can totally understand the shock that comes with it (joining Ulster). But I feel this is the right decision for me in my life and in my career."

As for his World Cup hopes, he just said, "I'm not sure, it's out of my hands," he said.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen didn't sound too pleased about the utility back's ultimate departure and there was little encouragement given about his immediate future with the national side.

"I'm extremely disappointed he's going," Hansen said.

"He was a person we were hoping would grow over time after this World Cup into one of our senior players.

"We've put a lot of time and effort into him so we're disappointed he's decided to go down that route."

"Does it make him ineligible for the World Cup? No it doesn't," Hansen stated before adding, "but it does make it harder for him.

"We've got a duty to pick the best team but at the same time if two guys are vying for one spot then things like commitment and experience come into it," the coach ominously added.

With the mooted plan after Piutau's two years with Ulster being a return to New Zealand to perhaps try and make his claim for the 2019 World Cup squad, all the player would offered was, "It's hard to say."

Though the Blues have stated they would like their star player to return for next season, he could be blocked by the NZR from turning out for the Auckland franchise.

And things are also made more awkward as should the Blues then have a successful season with Piutau on board then he would not be able to be with the Auckland franchise for the Super Rugby finals as his contract with Ulster would have kicked in.

"We would like Charles to be playing for us next year," said Blues chief executive Michael Redman. "That decision is out of our hands and in the end it's a NZR decision," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph