Ulster full-back Salesi Tu’ipulotu “Charles” Piutau has made quite the impact in his maiden Guinness PRO12 season scoring nine tries in 21 appearances for the Irish province as they chase down a semi-final berth.
Piutau arrived at the Kingspan Stadium having spent a year at Premiership side Wasps due to Ulster’s overseas player quota being full – but the Tongan-born flyer didn’t waste any time upon his arrival in Belfast.
The All Black had a reputation for lightning fast feet and an eye for a gap before his arrival in the Guinness PRO12. He spent three seasons with Super Rugby’s Auckland Blues – making 41 appearances whilst also making his international debut for New Zealand.
Piutau earned 17 caps for the All Blacks between 2013 and 2015 scoring five tries in just ten starts for the world champions and winning every game in the famous All Black jersey.
Even though he knew he would forgo his international ambitions and the chance to star in a Rugby World Cup, Piutau jumped at the chance to play overseas when Ulster came calling in 2015.
Citing his desire to live outside of New Zealand as a privileged part of playing professional rugby, Piutau spent a year at Wasps before making Belfast his home at the start of this season.
He scored a memorable try for Wasps in the dying seconds of their European Champions Cup quarter-final helping them to the semi-final and was named in the Aviva Premiership Team of the Season.
Piutau’s first season in the white of Ulster did not bear the same results in the Champions Cup however. Ulster were eliminated in the group stage but have since mounted a Guinness PRO12 semi-final charge with Piutau at the forefront of their attacking weaponry.
The full-back, who can also operate in the centres or on the wing, has beaten 94 defenders in 21 appearances this season while making 1892 metres in some astonishing individual performances.
And Piutau has contributed nine tries as well as 33 clean breaks in a sparkling season which could yet end with Ulster featuring in the Guinness PRO12 semi-finals.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final