Onus goes on Weepu to perform for ABs

Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
Piri Weepu
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WANTED: Piri Weepu needs to perform well for the All Blacks on the European Tour.

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A picture of the 2005 All Blacks touring side hangs on the wall of the Peffermill University rugby clubrooms.

To the left of the group is a beaming Piri Weepu, a shock of peroxide orange on the right front of the halfback's bushy hair-do and the cheeky grin of youth.

In the middle is Byron Kelleher, the incumbent No 9 of the day.

Fast forward seven years and Weepu is back in Edinburgh in starkly different circumstances. This time he's the senior statesman, a 29-year-old, 66-test veteran fighting for his All Blacks career.

Auckland's transplanted Wellingtonian has worked his way into a bit of a fix since his heroic World Cup feats. He has slipped behind Aaron Smith as the No 1 halfback, has Tawera Kerr-Barlow nipping at his heels, and TJ Perenara in the rear view mirror.

Weepu will get a chance to change that on this tour, and possibly as soon as Monday against Scotland where his wet weather expertise could be a valuable asset.

On the evidence of the past few days he not only grasps his situation, but has done for some time.

Weepu has been attending 6am cross-fit classes and extra boxing sessions with former Warriors hooker Monty Betham.

Encouragingly, it has paid off visibly. Weepu's physique is markedly improved from the player who struggled through Super Rugby, and even the man who last started for the All Blacks against the Springboks in Dunedin on September 20. It needed to.

"I've just tried to keep working hard," Weepu said yesterday. "You've got to make the most of the opportunity."

"Opportunity" was a word Weepu used repeatedly as he fronted media and he will know there may not be too many more if he cannot put some convincing runs on the board in the next month.

His challenge is not insignificant and many pundits believe he is lucky to have been given a boarding pass ahead of Canterbury's Andy Ellis.

The door is ajar for redemption, but only just. Smith had the first poor test performance of his short, but stellar test career, during the draw with the Wallabies in Brisbane and Kerr-Barlow is yet to get off the mark.

Weepu has to emulate their high energy.

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- The Dominion Post


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