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".
"Piutau is the loss that continues to haunt NZ Rugby especially after they handed out 4 year deals to J Savea and R Ioane," Cully said on Twitter.
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.
His omission from the World Cup 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 World Cup 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 World Cup in Japan. 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.
From next season Piutau will link with Fijian talent Semi Radradra, who last week signed a three-year deal with Bristol.
Theirs will be a devastating combination that promises to fill highlight reels, with Radradra currently continuing his impressive World Cup form in his final season with Bordeaux, and Piutau contributing his step, power, pace and intelligence.
Piutau and Radradra will be Bristol's two marquee players whose salaries sit outside the English salary cap.
"My family and I are loving our time in Bristol and it was an easy decision to stay," Piutau said.
"There's a brilliant environment and a group of boys who are giving everything for the jersey and the community.
"It's always an honour to play alongside my brother [Siale Piutau] and to represent the Bears in front of the awesome fans at Ashton Gate.
"Pat Lam has been a massive influence on my career and I'm loving my rugby here. There's a collective belief that we can win silverware if we continue to keep moving forward and I'm excited about the future at Bristol."
Piutau made 11 appearances for the Bears in his debut season at Ashton Gate, and was their joint second-highest try-scorer in the league with six.
This season, Piutau leads the Premiership Rugby metres made with 551 in five games. He has also beaten 24 defenders and made six clean breaks.
Bristol are second in the Premiership after winning three of their opening five games of the season.
Lam, Bristol's director of rugby, was full of praise for his star fullback.
"Charles is an outstanding team man and a world-class talent. He has the ability to create opportunities out of nothing for the team so we're delighted that he's committed to the Bears and our vision," Lam.
"What has been most pleasing is how enthusiastic Charles is about the Bears, his team-mates and the city. He applied for, and was appointed to, the role of community leader in the player leadership group this season, which underlines how much he cares about the community.
"On the field, Charles brings an invaluable attacking threat, but also a calm head and a wealth of experience. His game understanding and leadership at the back brings a lot of comfort to his teammates and it has allowed a lot of the young players around him to flourish.
"To be able to select a Bristol backline next season that will combine world-class talent such as Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra and Luke Morahan alongside a host of young, English talent shows the exciting direction and growth that we are showing as a team."