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Thursday 8 December 2016

Piutau praises consistency of All Black full-back Smith

Charles Piutau
Charles Piutau

"His house must be coming down with bottles of champagne from the Aviva Premiership."

This was Stephen Ferris's comical interpretation of the multiple Man of the Match awards Charles Piutau picked up for Wasps last season.

Ulster's sensation is not so much 'the one' that got away from the All Blacks as one that got away.

This is a testament to the talent and tenacity of the immovable New Zealand full-back Ben Smith.

There was a time when Piutau, as an Auckland Blue, had to find a weakness through Smith's armour.

"Yeah, I think it's pretty hard. I think mentally week in, week out, he'll bring his best and he'll perform, no doubt," said Piutau.

"His core skills as a full-back, his high ball, his attacking game, his vision, his defence, one-on-one tackles is a really high standard.

"Hence why he's always a starter on their team."

The brother to nine siblings, most of them still back in Auckland, spent one season looking at the Otago Highlander Smith as an opponent.

Then, Piutau's rapid promotion to All Black status saw Smith become a team-mate for international purposes.

"I guess, having trained with him and been in the same camp as him, he's such a kind person," said Piutau.

"He's got this persona about him that he's really chilled and he takes pressure really well.

"At the same time, he's a leader and he's a real genuine, good bloke off the field as well."

It is the special bond of All Black brotherhood that feeds into a culture of unity.

"Speaking from my own experience, they make you feel like you belong there.

"You've got senior players - at that time it was Richie McCaw, Dan Carter - making you feel welcome," said Piutau. "That alone is huge, feeling you are worthy to be there, and that you are able to add, no just be happy to be part of it.

"The more comfortable someone gets in an environment, the more they can play at their best."

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