Family comes first for Ulster’s Bristol-bound Charles Piutau
Back opted to move to English Premiership next season instead of All Blacks return
Charles Piutau will leave Ulster for Bristol next season. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho
Charles Piutau has insisted it was an “easy decision” to put supporting his family before a chance to chase further All Blacks honours.
Ulster star Piutau will become one of the world’s highest earners when he joins Bristol next summer, and admitted holding talks with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) before settling on his move to England.
Piutau gave up the chance for a place at Rugby World Cup 2015 by agreeing to join Ulster in 2016, enjoying a short stint at Wasps before moving to Belfast.
The 25-year-old met with NZRU bosses over a possible move back to Super Rugby in 2017, but is now looking forward instead to linking back up with his former Auckland Blues coach Pat Lam at ambitious Bristol next term.
“First maybe there was an option to go back to New Zealand,” Piutau said.
“After catching up with people in the union it became clear that I didn’t want to go back.
“So after that it was an easy option for me, to stay in the north.
“Then I started talking to a few clubs, and I found Bristol was a perfect fit for me.
“I was born and brought up in New Zealand, I love the All Blacks jersey and I love what it stands for.
“But when it comes to a place when you can provide for your family and there’s a better opportunity, to me it was an easy decision. I’ll always choose my family over anything else.
“I’m so thankful for everything that happened in New Zealand, but as well as wanting to provide for my family, I also wanted to experience this side of the world.
“Ulster have been amazing with me, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here playing for the club and in the city of Belfast.
“So I want to make the most of everything in my final year here.”
Piutau won 17 All Blacks caps before foregoing his 2015 World Cup dream to switch to the northern hemisphere.
The spending power of top European clubs is luring southern hemisphere talents north earlier in their careers, a trend that Piutau only expects to continue.
The bulldozing utility back has taken a place on the players’ board of Pacific Rugby Players’ Welfare (PRPW), the organisation to further the aims and interests of Pacific Islanders based in Europe.
Piutau hailed the initiative set up by former Samoa lock Dan Leo as a means to help Pacific Islanders better cope with life overseas.
Intent on helping other Pacific Islanders get to grips with life and work in the northern hemisphere, Piutau admitted relishing the challenge of overseas rugby.
Piutau will link up with older brother Siale at Bristol next year — another draw to the west country club chasing promotion back to the Premiership this term.
“I’m the youngest of 10 siblings so I always wanted to find my own two feet,” said Piutau.
“I always had that family support around me and that’s a good thing but at the same time, coming overseas, it was hard, but I knew it would help me grow as a person.
“In the same way that I want to give back to my family, I also had help from friends and team-mates I’d played with before when I was settling in at Wasps then Ulster too.
“Joining PRPW is a chance for me hopefully to give back to the Pacific Islands community in a small way.
“For players to know they have a support network and a voice when playing in Europe, I think that’s important.”