Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO
Marquee signing

'We tried everything in the book to keep him but Ulster weren't having any of it'

Charles Piutau makes his Ulster debut tonight having arrived from Wasps as the province’s marquee signing.

OVER THE COURSE of one evening, Charles Piutau has already given the Ravenhill faithful a taste of what is to come and one of his former team-mates believes the All Black will have a big impact at Ulster.

The 24-year-old back marked his home debut for the province with a try during last week’s friendly win over Northampton and will tonight make his Pro12 bow against Newport Gwent Dragons.

With much of the talk around Belfast in the build-up to the new season surrounding the impending departure of Ruan Pienaar, Piutau’s arrival has certainly boosted Les Kiss’ ranks.

The New Zealander is undoubtedly the Pro12′s marquee addition and James Haskell, who played alongside Piutau at Wasps, believes he will take the league by storm.

“I think he’s going to be massive for Ulster,” Haskell said. “He’s their biggest signing, we tried to keep hold of him and Ulster were not having that. They’re trying to build a team around him and I think it’s the most money they’ve ever spent on a player.

“He’s great because he’s a consummate professional. He’s going to come in and he loves to work hard, he’s out there training every day and he’s not a primadonna, he’s very keen to improve his game.

“He’s such a devastating runner with the ball in hand and they’ve got (Marcell) Coetzee as well, who’s gone there. I think Ulster are going to be the team to watch, they’re going to be very good. You saw what Charles did for us at Wasps last season, just how if you kick badly to him or give him an opportunity, he can create stuff out of nothing. As soon as you learn to play off him then he puts a lot of people away for tries.”

Charles Piutau Presseye / Brian Little/INPHO The New Zealand international during yesterday's captain's run in Belfast. Presseye / Brian Little/INPHO / Brian Little/INPHO

Speaking at the launch of Sky Sports’ rugby coverage for the new season yesterday, Haskell admitted the Premiership club did everything within their power to retain Piutau’s services.

However, Ulster had already tied him down to a two-year contract back in April 2015 and weren’t prepared to let him stay in England.

“I think we tried everything in the book to keep him but Ulster were never going to have that,” the England international continued.

“They’d announced it a year before he was due to come over there and they weren’t going to let us snatch him over.

“He had his brother over playing for us and he really enjoyed it but the things with these guys, he’ll come in and put in the same amount of effort for Ulster as he did for us and will definitely be great.

“That’s what I love about him. At Wasps he was always professional, set standards and just constantly did amazing things in training. He broke a few boys’ ankles with his footwork, they were falling over left, right and centre and he did that in games as well.”

Sky Sports kicks off a bumper season of rugby – which includes live Guinness Pro12, ERCC and Ireland’s autumn internationals – this weekend with exclusive coverage of Scarlets v Munster and Connacht v Glasgow. Sky TV customers can upgrade to Sky Sports for just €20 per month via the red button.

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