Blues rocked by news of Piri Weepu's stroke

MARC HINTON AND LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 17:30 28/03/2014
Fairfax

Doctors and team mates talk through Piri Weepu's stroke.

piri
TIME OUT: Piri Weepu of the Blues looks on from the sideline during a match against the Chiefs in February.

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Tests have confirmed Blues and former All Black halfback Piri Weepu has a small hole in his heart which is likely to have caused the minor stroke he suffered around March 1.

A Blues spokesman confirmed the latest prognosis on the 71-test World Cup winner and said his case would be further reviewed by specialists next week to determine the best course of action.

The Blues spokesman said it was not clear at this stage whether Weepu would require surgery to correct the heart defect, but all indications were that he would make a full recovery and be able to return to the team after a short period of convalescence.

Weepu was released from Auckland Hospital on Thursday afternoon, and visited the Blues prior to their captain’s run today where he spoke to his team-mates.

Blues doctor Stephen Kara told reporters on Thursday that should scans show a small defect in the heart, "then he would undergo some minor surgry to correct that".

At this stage that decision has not yet been made, with Weepu due to have his case reviewed with a heart specialist early next week.

"His long-term playing future looks pretty good, but in the short term he has to take a brief stint on the sidelines to ensure risk is minimised as much as we can," Dr Kara said on Thursday.

Weepu’s mother Kura has travelled north from Wellington to be with her son.

The 30-year-old played three games for the Blues subsequent to his stroke which is thought to have occurred the day after the Super Rugby clash against the Crusaders on February 28.

But continued headaches and some problems with speech saw the veteran halfback undertake scans on Monday that reveled he had suffered a minor stroke back when he first presented with symptoms.

The Blues host the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday night.

BLUES REELING

Tomorrow night's Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders has become secondary to the health of their hospitalised halfback, Piri Weepu.

There's nothing like a dose of perspective, and yesterday rugby just didn't seem so important as the Auckland franchise dealt with the fallout over news that Weepu was to miss at least the next month of the season.

The 30-year-old, 71-test veteran is still in Auckland City Hospital undergoing further tests. Weepu was "well and normal," Kara said, and was expected to make a full recovery.

"This is not a rugby-related incident, this is not related to a concussive event or to any blow. This is something that happens in the normal population," Kara said.

The Blues have replaced Weepu with 22-year-old Bryn Hall, who will make his first start for them tomorrow night.

Blues coach John Kirwan was asked if Weepu's situation would "galvanise" his team for tomorrow's pivotal clash against the Highlanders at Eden Park.

"We were all in shock - it makes you think about life in general," Kirwan said.

"All of us have thought about that and our thoughts are with Piri. We need to stay strong for him. They're difficult times."

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Two of Weepu's senior team-mates also spoke about the difficulty of dealing with their team-mate's health issues.

"It was a bit of a shock when he told the team," said Ma'a Nonu, who will make his first start of the season tomorrow night.

"It's all about his heath and his future. We will always think of him and support him. It puts things into perspective in terms of life. You might be playing footy 24/7 but these curve balls can hit you. When it's one of your best mates who you've been playing with for the last decade, it's pretty sad to see."

Former All Black Jerome Kaino, who will make his first Blues start since 2011, said everyone had been "shocked" when Weepu told them about his situation in a special team meeting.

"But Piri, as always, was very positive about things. He's gutted he can't run out with us but he's got bigger things to worry about. Hopefully we can do the job for him on the field."

Weepu yesterday relayed his thanks to his thousands of wellwishers via Twitter.

"Thanks for all the support guys, much appreciated. I'm sweet, looking forward to getting back on the park as soon as possible," he said.

Nonu said there was only one priority for Weepu now.

"His health is the most important thing for him at the moment, especially with three young kids. He'll put footy aside and hopefully he comes right."

- Fairfax Media

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