All Blacks coach retains his faith in Weepu
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen insists Piri Weepu is still fighting for his All Blacks career.
Hansen selected Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Weepu as his halfbacks for next month's northern tour but Weepu's inclusion came with a caution.
Weepu's charmed run under Hansen continues to irritate many Kiwis and the coach acknowledged the Blues No 9, who returned to Super Rugby duty in an overweight and cumbersome state following the World Cup, needs to show some self-discipline over the off-season.
"He can't afford to have another Super 15 like the one he had because we now have Aaron Smith in a position where he has shown us, thus far, that by and large he is built for test rugby," Hansen said.
"And you have a young boy called TJ Perenara coming back from injury. ‘Pow' [Weepu] is not stupid and he will recognise that. The off-season is going to be very important because you can't start behind the eight-ball."
Will the heat really be on Weepu to perform on this tour - where Hansen believes the heavy, possibly wet, conditions will suit his game?
"I would say so. It has been on him for most of the year. He hasn't let us down at this point but he has not set the world on fire, either."
Hansen has faith in the Blues staff to ensure Weepu doesn't return in the dreadful state that created such a stir this year and had former coach Pat Lam wondering what had happened to his marquee signing.
Crusaders No 9 Andy Ellis is contracted to the New Zealand Rugby Union until the end of the next Super Rugby season and although determined to remain here, his agent will look at overseas options.
So what message can Hansen offer Ellis, 28, to remain in New Zealand? His message was familiar - the same as he offered when he surprisingly axed him before the June tests.
"I can see Andy still being a part of the All Blacks if he has the desire to be part of the All Blacks.
"He is a very good player. He's a really competitive man and a good man. But unfortunately for him we chose Weepu's style of game to complement Smith earlier in the season.
"Now Weepu has to show us he can play the style of game we want him to play."
Meanwhile, Adam Thomson has yet to advise the NZRU of his plans for next season. Speculation continues that he will join an overseas club next year.
Which rugby player would you be most inclined to bend selection rules for?