Piri Weepu starts overseas career, as water-boy

CLUB MAN: Piri Weepu shows support for his home club Wainuiomata.
CLUB MAN: Piri Weepu shows support for his home club Wainuiomata.

World Cup winning All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu has begun his overseas rugby career as a water-boy, promising a selfless attitude as he tries to help London Welsh establish themselves in the English Premiership.

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Weepu said he would bring a team-first approach to a club freshly promoted and looking to do better than their last stay at the top that lasted just one season. And he's already proved that by running the water bottles in a pre-season match.

"I'm here to push this club as hard as I can and I'll do everything possible for the team," Weepu told The Rugby Paper website as his arrival in Britain drew attention ahead of this weekend's season kickoff.

"Everything is about the team, not the individual, and if someone's not pulling their weight, including me, I hope they'll say it.

"There's expectation but I just want to come here and do my job - and make sure I do it well."

Weepu, the 30-year-old 71-test veteran, felt the role came naturally to him these days.

"Back home I was always trying to help the younger players coming through and work on their skill-sets. If someone's bad at tackling or passing, you get a team-mate to help out and do everything possible to be on top of your game," he said.

"We need to adopt that philosophy and make sure we get better as a squad and do better than they did here two years ago."

London Welsh coach Justin Burnell was backing Weepu's leadership to help his side survive.

"He's a game-breaker," Burnell told the BBC.

"His attributes are just phenomenal but the biggest thing we require is leadership - he certainly brings those leadership qualities in abundance."

And Burnell and his team manager Sonny Parker have quickly been impressed by Weepu's humility.

Burnell was delighted to have Weepu start his London Welsh career as a water-boy.

"Although he is an All Black World Cup winner he is still classed as no different to our younger players. He was the head water-boy so he was running around doing all the duties, which is good - he has to buy into what we're doing."

Parker said Weepu was quite content to carry the drinks and get to know the setup - and he hadn't gotten a ribbing from his new team mates about his role on the bottles.

"I don't think it matters to him, as long as there is a rugby pitch and a rugby ball," Parker told the BBC.

"I asked him if he wanted to come down and be water-boy and he said 'yes, happy days'.

"He was water-boy for his club back home so he's got some experience, but there's no banter going on, I think the boys have too much respect for him."

Burnell made no apologies about London Welsh's recruitment policy that has seen them buy players for their return to the top division.

Burnell said the core of his squad would still be based around the players who had secured back to back wins against Leeds and Bristol late last season to clinch promotion.

"Everyone seems to be getting bogged down with the number," Burnell told the BBC.

"We are no different to anyone else who has brought five or six players in.

"We want to be able to compete. It would be negative if we used the usual cliches of 'every game is a cup final' and 'we just want to stay up'.

"There's more to it than that because we want to do ourselves proud. We're not here only to survive. We need the mindset that on any day we're capable of picking up points."

Weepu wasn't the only New Zealander on the books, but he was certainly the most famous. The others were little heralded Nathan Vella, Cameron Goodhue, Tim Molenaar and Daniel Browne.

London Welsh started their campaign against Exeter on Monday.