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'Once you cross that line, no friends on the field': Old pals Saili and Piutau ready for first derby battle

Francis Saili says talk of his Munster future is “not on the horizon at the moment.”

Saili: aware of Piutau's threat.
Saili: aware of Piutau's threat.
Image: Camersport/Ian Cook/INPHO

FRANCIS SAILI HAS has clear advice to his teammates this week — watch out for his old colleague Charles Piutau or they will pay a big price.

Piutau and Saili, 26, lined up together for the Blues and All Blacks and just four months separates the two Auckland-born backs in age. They both left their home town for the northern hemisphere two seasons ago, but this will be the first time they face each other in the red of Munster and the white of Ulster.

And according to Saili, Piutau is one player the Munster defence will have to focus on – although not to the detriment of Jacques Nienaber’s system.

“I have only played against him once or twice. That was in club rugby back home. It is going to be a good outing against him,” said Saili.

“I know how dangerous he is and leading into this weekend, reviewing against Ulster, he is going to be one of the main targets to keep an eye on.

“Charles is someone I played with through the grades and back home in the Super Rugby franchise and the All Blacks as well, so it is interesting to play against him.

But like I have always said, once you cross that line, no friends on the field.

“A guy like Charles sniffs out opportunities. With us we need to trust our defence systems and I know we have been doing that the whole year.

“It is a team sport, but we just know he is one of the key guys in their team that can make something out of nothing.

“We are confident enough going into this game, especially with how we have been going throughout the year with our defence system and stuff. If he ever does match up against us then we are just going to trust our systems.”

The duo have had contrasting fortunes since their move north though. Piutau has shone for Wasps and now Ulster, and is regarded as one of the hottest properties in world rugby.

Saili, on the other hand, has really struggled due to injury after a bright end to last season. He didn’t make his first appearance this campaign until St Stephen’s Day following shoulder surgery and he is keen to play his part now.

His two-year deal with the province runs out this summer but he is not yet ready to reveal where he will ply his trade next season.

That is not on the horizon at the moment. I am just trying to play good footy week in and week out.

“Hopefully in the next couple of months something comes through for me, but under than that I am just enjoying my footy, enjoying how I am going with Munster.

“It is just good to be back out on the pitch and hopefully, touch wood, no more injuries, but you cannot guarantee that anyway.

“I think for us, we are not looking too far ahead of ourselves. The task in hand against Ulster this weekend is going to be a big one. It is going to lead us well into next week’s game with Saracens, so it is going to be a huge one this weekend.”

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Declan Rooney

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