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Piutau: His loss haunts NZ

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The 'loss that continues to haunt NZ Rugby'

The life of an All Blacks winger is alarmingly short and Bristol Bears’ Charles Piutau can attest to that.

The Bristol outside back’s Test career ended in 2015 when he was not selected by Steve Hansen for the Rugby World Cup, and The Sydney Morning Herald rugby columnist Paul Cully has described him as the “loss that continues to haunt NZ Rugby”.

Earlier in 2015, the New Zealand Rugby Union had been outbid for the services of Piutau, as he announced that he would be moving to Ulster midway through 2016. He played in the Rugby Championship that year, but the Test against South Africa in Johannesburg would prove to be his last.

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His omission from the RWC and failure to secure an extension with the Blues ushered a short-term move to Wasps before the move to Belfast. Since then, be it in England or Ireland, he has been one of the most devastating backs in the northern hemisphere.

The 28-year-old signed a new two-year deal with the Bears on Wednesday, off the back of a blistering start to the season, and there are few players that would rival him for a place in the All Blacks squad if he were playing in New Zealand.

The past ten years has shown how hard it is to retain a starting berth out wide for New Zealand. Julian Savea burst onto the scene in 2012, starred at the 2015 RWC and looked like he would break every record imaginable. By 2017, he was no longer selected by Hansen and moved to France the following year, as he was usurped by the newcomer Rieko Ioane.

Although he is still only 22 years of age, Ioane fell down the pecking order in 2019, and barely featured at the RWC. Of the three players, Piutau has undoubtedly played the best rugby over the past year.

The NZRU made a far greater effort to keep hold of Savea and Ioane, albeit the former is now playing for Toulon, however, in hindsight, they perhaps did not show the application that was needed to retain the Bristol man, and they may be rueing that mistake.

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The 'loss that continues to haunt NZ Rugby'