Mark Hammett staying tight-lipped on Weepu

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 01/05/2012
Hammett and Weepu
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JUST TALKING: Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett and Piri Weepu have a chat after the Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Blues in Auckland in March.
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Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has met with Piri Weepu in recent weeks but would not divulge what the pair discussed or whether the halfback was welcome back at the Super Rugby franchise.

Weepu, who turned down a Hurricanes contract for this year in favour of playing for the Blues, has expressed a desire to return to his former stamping ground.

He and Hammett shared a lengthy and apparently good natured chat at Eden Park, when the Hurricanes and Blues met earlier this season. Weepu's new team meet the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium on Friday, but Hammett was evasive when asked if the two would talk again.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked.

So began an exchange in which the Hurricanes coach yielded very little ground.

Reporter: Well, you talked to Piri last time the teams met?

Hammett: I mean we had a chat after the game. I talk to most players.

R: Have you discussed him coming back to play for the Hurricanes?

H: I've fulfilled a meeting request that he had, a couple of Saturdays ago. So I have met him and yeah.

R: So he asked for a meeting and you said yes?

H: Yeah.

R: Was it a cordial conversation?

H: It was cordial when I spoke to him after that Auckland game. But, obviously, with all player discussions it's confidential.

R: Is it potentially destabilising for your current halfbacks to have Piri indicating that he wants to come home?

H: I've got very good relationships with my players and you'd have to ask them that question.

R: Piri has created this speculation. Can you say anything to kill it stone dead or can you confirm that the team might be interested in having him back, so we can avoid weeks of this talk?

H: The thing is you won't get clarity because, as I've just said, we don't discuss that. We don't discuss player meetings.

So around we go in circles, again.

Aside from people like Tana Umaga and Ma'a Nonu, few Hurricanes players have been firmer fan favourites than Weepu. His departure saddened many and while some might feel the Hurricanes are better off without him, most would welcome Weepu back with open arms.

Weepu himself hasn't explicitly said he'd like to return to the Hurricanes.

"They've got to want me first," he said last week.

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A day later, Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni would only say that his franchise was open to talking to any player or their agent.

Meanwhile, Hammett was happy to report that a bit of bruised pride was the only significant injury affecting his team, in the wake of Saturday's 33-14 loss to the Chiefs.

He said halfback TJ Perenara was "pretty vibrant" after twisting an already tender ankle during the match, and there was nothing serious about reserve hooker Motu Matu'u wandering around in a moon boot. Both would probably be fit for selection this week.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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