Piri Weepu has revealed he injured himself in the warm-up to the World Cup final – going some way to explaining his uncharacteristically poor performance in the title match.
The groin injury curse that removed Dan Carter and Colin Slade from the tournament threatened Weepu's appearance in the final against France.
He tweaked a groin muscle in the immediate lead-up to the game as the two teams went through their exercises before kick-off.
Weepu pushed on and played but his own game wasn't quite there. In fact, his superhero-like powers that had become folklore over the previous weeks seemingly deserted him when they were needed most. He missed three kicks at goal, gave up an intercept that led to the French try and he was eventually subbed after 50 minutes, trudging off Eden Park clearly disappointed.
Weepu said he was "pretty gutted" to be subbed but saw the sense in it as the coaches brought on a fresh Andy Ellis to help stem the French attacks that were gathering momentum with increasing danger.
"I wasn't ready to come off. I had a tweak of my groin before the game started and I guess the coaches were only looking out for what was best for the team. If that means taking someone off because they're not 100 per cent, you're doing it for the team's cause and obviously it worked out," a philosophical Weepu said as the All Blacks joyfully paraded the World Cup around the country.
Weepu, whose exciting World Cup form saw him on the shortlist for the IRB player of the year award that was eventually won by French skipper Thierry Dusautoir, admitted the groin strain had affected his goalkicking.
"I had doubts in my mind that if I did kick the ball I'd definitely be pulling it and wouldn't be able to run around for the amount of time that I did," he said.
In the end replacement No10 Stephen Donald was handed the kicking duties and landed the second half penalty that was enough to give the All Blacks their 8-7 victory.
Weepu was left to watch the last half hour from the bench and admitted it was tough viewing.
"Especially when they [France] had that penalty shot at goal. Fingers crossed the whole time. Then the last four minutes of the game some of us were on our knees on the sideline, holding hands, just praying to the good Lord above that he answers our prayers and obviously he did that."
Weepu admitted the extra attention he received on social networks during the tournament as he stepped up to take over added responsibilities in the absence of Dan Carter had been unexpected.
"It can get quite daunting. You've just got to manage to cope with that and put all that energy into a good cause. I tried to do that [in the final], but obviously I didn't play the best game of my career, but I'm still happy we could come away with the win."
Now, with the World Cup won, he was just thrilled to be going around the country showing it off to the fans who he said had been so amazing to the All Blacks during the cup campaign.
"You can't really express how amazing it feels. It's a great occasion and I'm glad we could share this with the people of New Zealand."
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