Wavering Piri Weepu 'will be staying in NZ'

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2012
Piri Weepu
Photosport
STILL BLUE: Piri Weepu is likely to stay with the Blues next season, as all other New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have in-form starting halfbacks already.

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It seems the only certain thing about where Piri Weepu will play his rugby next year is that it will be in New Zealand.

Weepu, who had earlier indicated he was keen on a return to the Hurricanes, said yesterday his preference was now to remain with the Blues.

He felt he owed some loyalty considering the difficulties of his first year with the franchise.

However, his manager, Bruce Sharrock, said that stance was not confirmation Weepu had re-signed with the Blues, and did not close the door on other franchises.

"He's said 'if they want me I will be prepared to stay', but we are still going through a process of seeing what is out there," Sharrock said.

"He's not against remaining in Auckland and remaining with the Blues. But is a contract signed? No, that's not correct.

"We have not ruled out anything, but one thing that is 100 per cent is that Piri will be staying and playing rugby in New Zealand in 2013."

Weepu's new stance may simply reflect a logical decision based on the fact that the other four franchises all have established and in-form halfbacks. That's particularly true of the Hurricanes, where TJ Perenara has been arguably the form No 9 of the competition.

With Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), Andy Ellis (Crusaders) and Aaron Smith (Highlanders) all likely to return, Weepu's best chance could again be going head-to-head with Blues team-mate Alby Mathewson.

Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni is maintaining his stance that the franchise will talk to any player or their agents, rather than making a definitive statement on whether they are amenable to Weepu returning to his home franchise.

Weepu will take his place in the All Blacks' reserves against Ireland tonight behind Smith.

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