Piutau advocates for Pacific rugby players in Europe

Charles Piutau has become the latest high profile player to join the board of Pacific Rugby Players Welfare, which advocates for the interests of Pacific rugby players in the UK.

The 17-test All Black is currently plying his trade for Irish side Ulster and is the first Pro12 representative on the board, providing a voice for players of Pacific heritage in Ireland, Scotland, Wales & Italy.

The 25-year-old said he was excited about the prospect of helping improve conditions for Pacific Islanders and their families abroad.

"I'm glad to be joining PRPW and contributing to the great work that the guys are doing amongst our European/Pacific community. The Pacific culture is all about giving back and being a part of this initiative gives me a chance to do that," he said.

Piutau, who is the younger brother of Tonga captain Siale Piutau, joins a who's who list Northern-Hemisphere-based players of Pacific Island heritage, including England internationals Mako Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Manu Tuilagi, former All Black John Afoa, ex Wallaby Matt To'omua, Manu Samoa halfback Kahn Fotual'ii, Fiji's Nemani Nadolo and Tonga's Soane Tongahuia.

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Director Dan Leo said having someone like Charles Piutau on board was a "real coup".

"You see a lot of good players come over here, who played for the All Blacks for instance, or the Wallabies, that don't cut it at the highest level over here in Europe and can actually struggle," he said.

"Whereas Charles has transitioned into European rugby like a duck to water so with that comes a lot of respect for what he's done on the field but off the field as well he's a person who puts his money where his mouth is, so to speak, and he's actually made the decision to come over here at the detriment of his own All Blacks career.

"Putting his family first and obviously there's a lot of money to be earned over...really putting the family first and the extended community first and that's what every Pacific Islander, it's at the forefront of our thinking and it's intertwined into our being."

Daniel Leo said 20 percent of all professional rugby players these days are of Pacific Island heritage and whether they represent Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Australia or New Zealand, they experience the same issues.

He said, since its formation 18 months ago, the focus of Pacific Rugby Players Welfare has been supporting players on the ground, helping them navigate challenges like contract or agent disputes and preparing for life after rugby through education and work experience.

"Our players have said to us when push comes to shove we need to be able to keep our community's agenda at the forefront of every decision that we're making, " he said.

"So we've purposely kept a distance from World Rugby and the International Rugby Players Association, which are funded by World Rugby, in order to represent our people in the best way we can."

"We're currently making inroads to working with the British military," said Leo, who won 42 test caps for Manu Samoa and the Pacific Islanders.

"Myself and three of our other directors just met with the Fijian ambassador to the UK and really just trying to establish mental health services that are provided by the army predominantly to the Fijian soldiers.

"...And really trying to tap into those services and saying if you've got a repore working with Fijian soldiers then maybe there's a crossover to providing services for the 600 plus rugby players that we've got here in Europe as well."


Photo: PHOTOSPORT Charles Piutau has 17 All Black caps.