Lam gives Weepu blessing to play for Wainui

OUTSHONE: Piri Weepu playing club rugby for Wainuiomata against Upper Hutt at Maidstone Park.
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
OUTSHONE: Piri Weepu playing club rugby for Wainuiomata against Upper Hutt at Maidstone Park.

Embattled Blues rugby coach Pat Lam has endorsed  Piri Weepu continuing to play club rugby for Wainuiomata, rather than for the Auckland club he had been aligned with.

Weepu has made two appearances for the Hutt Valley club this season after being relegated to the Blues' reserves amid a string of lacklustre performances and controversy surrounding his fitness.

"He's with his family down there, and the reason he's going down is to see his kids. He wants to play, and we want him to play, so it's win-win for us and him."

But, Lam hinted today the All Black halfback's exile on the bench for the Auckland franchise could be about to end.

The Blues host defending champs the Queensland Reds at Eden Park on Friday night and Lam gave a strong indication that the much-talked-about Weepu could finally be fit enough to warrant a starting spot.

They will name their lineup on Wednesday.

"He's getting there," said Lam of the 56-test new recruit who has been used mostly as an impact man this campaign. "I thought when he came on he did some really good stuff.

"Last week we stuck with Alby [Mathewson] and Gareth [Anscombe]. Alby for the last three years has been the main halfback, and it's about Piri putting the pressure on him and he applied a bit on the weekend so that comes into the selection mix this week."

Despite being allowed to play for Wainui in the Wellington club rugby competition Weepu will not be playing for the Wellington Lions in this year's ITM Cup, and will instead play for the Auckland NPC team.

BLUES HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE

The Blues have nothing to lose after dropping their sixth straight - and seventh of eight games in total - in Dunedin last Friday night against the Highlanders.

Last year's Super Rugby semifinalists are now playing for pride only after the 30-27 defeat in Dunedin left them firmly entrenched at the bottom of the table.

Lam cut a fairly jaunty figure as he fronted the media for his regular Monday debrief at the franchise's training base yesterday, even able to afford a smile at the misfortune that continues to dog his team as they continue to drop winnable games.

"We're close but not close enough," shrugged Lam who now appears to have dealt with the criticism and social media attacks that have accompanied the Blues' calamitous campaign thus far. He talked about a number of crucial decisions going against his team down the stretch, and said: "We can't buy a trick at the moment, but we've just got to keep working."

The Blues coach felt he was finally starting to get some major impact from his senior All Blacks, and singled out lock Ali Williams and prop Tony Woodcock for special praise for their efforts at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

"Ali had a superb game. The acid went on him, and the work he did not only at the set piece - he's the best scrummaging lock in the country - but the work he did around the field was probably his best yet.

"I thought that was the best effort he's given in a Blues jersey so far this year.

"And Tony Woodcock is on fire. Without a doubt he's my player of the day, not only for his scrummaging but the work he did, and the physicality he brought.

"Ma'a [Nonu] had his best game for the Blues as well, and Piri showed some good stuff when he came on."

Lam said there was a possibility he could get Rudi Wulf back from his shoulder problems depending on the result of a scan, but otherwise it would be the same troops who came up short in Dunedin.

And against a Reds out desperate to halt their own slide, Lam felt it wouldn't get any easier for his team this week.

"We are completely backs to the wall... it's about individual pride now, pride in the Blues, and pride in who we are. That's what we've got to keep fighting for."

Related stories:

Weepu back for Wainui

Will Weepu and Nonu be Lions?

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