Bristol have made a major coup on the transfer market with the signing of All Black Charles Piutau from the start of the 2018/19 season.
The 25-year-old, who was named Pro12 Player of the Year after his first season at Ulster, will honour his contract with the Irish province this season but he will move to the West Country next summer hoping the club has safely secured their return to the Premiership
Reports suggest that the 16-time capped All Black will be the highest paid player in the world becoming the first player to be offered £1m per season.
“One of our key focuses is about the journey that Bristol Rugby are on – Charles’ signing for the 2018/19 season demonstrates that we have a long-term plan and structure in place,” said Bristol head coach Lam.
“We’re thrilled to have an individual of his immense quality and experience to add to our ranks. As somebody who has worked with Charles previously, I know what an influential player he is on and off the field.
“It’s not just his ability to play fullback, wing and centre, all at international standard, but it’s also his willingness to help and mentor others which will be a big boost for our young English players coming through.
“Charles is excited by our vision of ‘inspiring our community through rugby success.’ His determination and attitude to improve as a player and person are exactly the sort of world class characteristics we want in every player who pulls on the Bristol jersey.”
Before his move to Ireland, Piutau had a short-term spell with Wasps in 2016, Piutau was nominated for the Premiership Player of the Season and was named in the Team of the Season.
He added: “The biggest consideration in my decision to join Bristol is the opportunity to play with my brother Siale, as he approaches the end of his career. It will also be great to work with Steven Luatua and Pat Lam again.
“To join Bristol Rugby and be part of the vision that Pat Lam and his coaching team has is very appealing to me. I understand the challenges that lie ahead for the club but firmly believe Bristol can once again become a major force in English and European rugby.
“By sorting my playing future early, I can focus entirely on Ulster this season and what the team can achieve in the Pro14 and Europe.”
Ulster Operations Director Bryn Cunningham added: “Charles is a fantastic player who delivered many match-winning contributions in his first season with us, and I’m sure he’ll produce plenty more over the next ten months. I know that he remains committed to helping us reach our potential in both the Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup.
“It is disappointing that Charles is moving on, but salaries for the world’s best players are rising year-on-year and are ultimately determined by what one club is prepared to pay for an individual.
“We have a strong commercial programme in place and that has allowed us to attract top overseas players and to retain our best home-grown talent in what is a hugely competitive market. Our strategy is to continue to recruit world class players in the seasons ahead.”