Piri Weepu repays Hansen's faith in him

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012
Piri Weepu
Getty Images
ON THE CHARGE: Piri Weepu’s decision-making during the test against Scotland at the weekend was praised by the All Blacks coaches.

Related Links

Hansen 'not panicking' over Thomson charge Barrett shines at fullback, may get start in Rome Poaching Scott inspires Carter to a masterclass Thomson's careless footwork may prove costly Carter mesmerises on and off the field All Blacks loosie's tour in jeopardy

Relevant offers

All Blacks

Lydia Ko, Israel Dagg in three-hole cricket-golf challenge Tom Taylor signs with French Top 14 club Bayonne Serious injury concern for Chiefs' All Black lock Brodie Retallick after shoulder blow Dan Carter pivotal to All Black's World Cup chances, says former coach Graham Henry NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew forecasts 'modest profit' for 2014 France 'loaded' on drugs for infamous 1986 All Blacks 'Battle of Nantes' test Former All Black Piri Weepu to leave London Welsh after signing deal with French club Oyonnax New Zealand Rugby says mosquito-transmitted disease in Samoa won't threaten Apia test match Andy Ellis earned the yen in Japan but lost chance to return to the All Blacks fold Richie McCaw refutes links with offshore clubs, remains mute on retirement talk

Steve Hansen didn't wait for the cue to mention his halfback, though it was all he could do not to say the words he must have be thinking.

After a year of heavy criticism, mostly warranted, Piri Weepu finally produced a test performance of note during yesterday's 51-22 win over Scotland.

For Weepu it was confirmation the early morning gym sessions and dietary sacrifices have been worthwhile, that his body can still co-operate with the wishes of his mind.

For Hansen it was ammunition for a defence that had begun to wear thin for many.

"His job was made easier by a bloke who's come under a lot of criticism," Hansen offered when asked to comment on Dan Carter's virtuoso performance.

"I thought Piri Weepu was outstanding in the 60 minutes he played."

And he was, the reincarnation of a player who had been missing in action since last year's Rugby World Cup semifinal win over Australia.

It's been a long road to retribution and the sceptics will say: "It's only Scotland."

That's partly true but you can play only what's in front of you and, to be fair to the Scots, they matched the All Blacks in passion, but not skill and execution.

Whatever the case, Weepu has some confidence to build on and some satisfaction that he's repaid some of his coaches' faith.

"It might have taken me half the season to repay them but I'm just happy they have given me that opportunity and I've made the most of that against Scotland. We'll have to wait and see what happens after that."

Encouragingly, Weepu spoke in hushed tones about his performance saying he had simplified his approach, blocked out his critics by focusing on the basics and "just playing footy".

The 29-year-old realises this is a beginning, not an end and said he still has goals to achieve on and off the field. The former is clearly to reclaim the No 9 jersey in Cardiff and London.

Aaron Smith has had a stunning season but, for the first time in his short career, is under some real pressure from his rival. He was poor in Brisbane and will be keen to start against Italy. Weepu has certainly grabbed his backs coach's attention.

"I thought it was the best game I've seen him play for a long time," Ian Foster said after the tour opener.

"The things he's been working on he did very well. He was quick to the ruck and we know if he's quick to the ruck and focuses on clearing the ball well the rest of the game [comes]."

Ad Feedback

Foster credited several tries directly to Weepu's decision making, and first five-eighth Dan Carter agreed.

"He's played a lot of test match football and that really showed tonight.

"He picked his moments to go and his organisational skills were fantastic."

And so the tour winds its way to Rome where one can assume Smith will be back in the starting spot.

Of the two new caps, hooker Dane Coles was the better, full of energy as he ran hard at holes and pulled in some difficult passes.

Contrastingly Tawera Kerr-Barlow made a nervous start with a kick out on the full and a wild pass, a performance that may see him come off the bench again against Italy. 

- Fairfax Media

Special offers
Opinion poll

Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?

Dane Coles

Nathan Harris

Keven Mealamu

Wyatt Crockett

Charlie Faumuina

Ben Franks

Owen Franks

Joe Moody

Brodie Retallick

Luke Romano

Jeremy Thrush

Patrick Tuipulotu

Sam Whitelock

Sam Cane

Jerome Kaino

Richie McCaw

Liam Messam

Kieran Read

Vitor Vito

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content