3 Apr 2015

Piutau may miss World Cup

12:58 pm on 3 April 2015

Charles Piutau's not sure if he's harmed his chances of making the All Blacks squad for this year's World Cup, by signing a two-year contract to play for the Irish club Ulster.

Charles Piutau on Blues duty

Charles Piutau on Blues duty Photo: Photosport

The deal is believed to be worth close to $1 million a season.

The Blues star says it was a tough decision, and it's hard to find words to express how hard it was to definitely rule himself out of a possible Olympic gold medal in Sevens, and the 2017 Lions tour.

Piutau's post-World Cup departure comes as a surprise with the outside back a key target for NZR and the Blues Super Rugby franchise.

Charles Piutau in action for the All Blacks

Charles Piutau in action for the All Blacks Photo: Photosport

Piutau, who says he's keen to experience something new both in and outside of rugby in Europe, will join Ulster in July next year.

And the 23-year-old, who is still hoping to be selected for this year's World Cup and even play for the Blues next season, also isn't sure if he'll return to this country after his Irish contract ends.

Charles Piutau at Blues training

Charles Piutau at Blues training Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Any World Cup involvement this season or for the Blues in 2016 may not be looked on favourably by the New Zealand powers that be, because Piutau won't be available for the All Blacks next year.

His Blues coach Sir John Kirwan says Piutau's move is just a sign of the big money sloshing around the European leagues, and players can now head away mid-career and still come back to play here again, with their futures sorted.

But while it's nothing new, Sir John's warning the sums on offer to players will just keep rising, like in football.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Kirwan says he'd love for Piutau to be allowed to play for the Blues again next season, as his contract with Ulster doesn't start until July 2016 - but that's out of his hands.

Piutau is the latest established All Black to sign a post World Cup contract with a European club.

The trend, started by the likes of Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu after the 2011 tournament, is essentially a mid-career break from international rugby.

Born in Auckland, Piutau played for Tonga at the 2010 under-20s World Cup before switching allegiance to New Zealand at the 2011 tournament.

He played for the New Zealand sevens side in 2011-2012 but by moving to Ireland he effectively ends his chances of playing for the All Blacks Sevens at next year's Rio Olympics.

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