Piri Weepu's chances of returning to the Hurricanes may have firmed this week – but don't expect to hear anyone say it out loud.
OPINION: The timing of Weepu's comments suggesting his desire to come "home" next season have been about as good as his preseason fitness regime.
It's been an unwelcome and uncomfortable distraction for Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett as he prepares his side for an important match against the Blues on Friday.
And the welcome mat hasn't exactly been unfurled at Weepu's feet this week.
Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni produced a deft sidestep; coach Mark Hammett made like a cat on a hot tin roof.
And understandably so.
It would be grossly unfair to TJ Perenara if his coach and franchise began talking about signing an All Black halfback at this point of the season.
Hammett confirmed a meeting with Weepu, but not what was said. It is understood, however, that it went reasonably well.
The whole thing has the awkward feel of an old flame trying to get back together with a partner who has moved on.
And in many ways the Hurricanes and Hammett have. The culture has changed drastically from years past. Weepu's fitness neglect post-World Cup would not wash with the 2012 squad or their captain, Conrad Smith.
Hammett must have some reservations, and probably some stipulations.
But he must also look professionally at the makeup of his squad next season. Rebuilding is the present mantra, but this Hurricanes squad will have greater ambitions next year.
Could Weepu be a mentor to Perenara, gradually passing the baton to the star in the making?
Does anyone believe the Hurricanes would not be stronger with both in the squad together?
Players as classy as Weepu do not grow on trees, not even in the sporting factory of Wainuiomata.
To shun him would be understandable considering the sideshow that's ensued since his arrival at the Blues.
If he had his time again, Weepu would probably never have left.
Don't be surprised if there are further discussions between Weepu and the franchise he has represented 84 times.
- The Dominion Post
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