NEW Zealand international Charlie Piutau is to join elder brother, Tongan captain Siale Piutau, at Bristol but not before the start of the 2018-19 season after agreeing to join on a two-year deal from Guinness Pro14 club Ulster.
The 25-year-old gained the first of his 16 caps for the All Blacks in June 2013 against France in New Plymouth, and in his first season at Ulster he earned the Bank of Ireland Ulster ‘Player of the Year’ and Guinness Pro12 ‘Player of Year’ awards in 2016-17.
‘One of our key focuses is about the journey that Bristol Rugby are on – Charles’ signing for the 2018-19 season demonstrates that we have a long-term plan and structure in place,’ said Bristol head coach Pat Lam.
‘We’re thrilled to have an individual of his immense quality and experience to add to our ranks. As somebody who has worked with Charles previously, I know what an influential player he is on and off the field. ‘It’s not just his ability to play full-back, wing and centre, all of international standard, but it’s also his willingness to help and mentor others which will be a big boost for our young English players coming through.
‘Charles is excited by our vision of inspiring our community through rugby success. His determination and attitude to improve as a player and person are exactly the sort of world class characteristics we want in every player who pulls on the Bristol jersey.’ During a short-term spell with Wasps in 2016, Piutau was nominated for the Aviva Premiership ‘Player of the Season’ and was named in the ‘Team of the Season’. ‘
To join Bristol and be part of the vision that Pat Lam and his coaching team has is very appealing to me,’ said Piutau, who has also played for Auckland in the National Provincial Championship and the Blues’ Super Rugby franchise. ‘I understand the challenges that lie ahead for the club but firmly believe Bristol can once again become a major force in English and European rugby.
I’m looking forward to being part of a club that can inspire the community and receives massive backing from the city’s supporters. ‘The biggest consideration in my decision to join Bristol is the opportunity to play with my brother Siale, as he approaches the end of his career. It will also be great to work with Steven Luatua and Pat Lam again.
‘Last season wasn’t a good reflection on us as players but I think we will grow in the season ahead and be much more competitive. We have a new coaching team in place and they have brought fresh ideas and skills, which the boys have responded well to.
‘It is sad that this will be my last season in Belfast but I will be 100 per cent focused on ensuring that I finish my Ulster career on a high. By sorting my playing future early, I can focus entirely on Ulster this season and what the team can achieve in the Pro14 and Europe.’