Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Weepu gets his chance to show wares at first five

Piri Weepu. Photo / Dean Purcell
Piri Weepu. Photo / Dean Purcell

Piri Weepu will step out for the Blues at five-eighths this weekend as he makes his opening pitch to wear the No10 jersey for his new franchise.

The All Black halfback is keen to expand his positional repertoire in switching to the Blues after a long association with the Hurricanes.

At times he was used at five-eighths by the Canes and he eyed that role in moving to the Blues, where he will jostle with Michael Hobbs and Gareth Anscombe for selection.

Like most of the victorious World Cup squad, Weepu got a spell from training but is now ready with other test players such as Isaia Toeava, Ali Williams and raw lock Liaki Moli to return to combat against the Rebels in Melbourne tomorrow.

Weepu will match his utility skills against the variable clout of English playmaker Danny Cipriani, whose Rebels side lost 36-0 to the Chiefs in a trial match last weekend.

"If we're going to try Piri at 10, now is the time to do it and we'll see how he goes," coach Pat Lam said. "Hobbs and Anscombe both did well at 10 last week so now it's a chance for Piri.

"A key focus for us in this game is reintroducing the players who are coming back from injury or extended breaks such as Piri, Ali, Isaia and Liaki. Most of these guys should get around 40 minutes."

Making his way back into the Blues is young lock Moli, whose last campaign was destroyed by a shoulder injury and who then missed the opening trial against the Hurricanes last weekend because of a leg muscle strain. Former All Black flanker Daniel Braid also bypassed that match because of a leg problem but will start in Melbourne. He and his colleagues will face a couple of former Blues teammates, lock James King and flanker Tom Chamberlain, who have signed contracts with the Rebels.

Skipper Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Luke Braid and George Moala are excused this trip as they deal with slow buildups to this campaign and injury while another new signing, Ma'a Nonu, is still finishing his club contract in Japan.

Combative outside back Rene Ranger will start at centre tomorrow but will miss out on a matchup against the Rebels' experienced captain Stirling Mortlock, who is recovering from a knee injury. However, the hosts will still run out a strong backline including new signings James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale.

Rival coaches Pat Lam and Damien Hill have picked strong combinations for the opening half but are expected to make widespread changes.

* World Cup coach Graham Henry has signed on for some more work with the NZRU, agreeing to work part-time for two seasons in developing the country's coaches at Super Rugby and ITM Cup levels.

"Even going back to my time as a teacher and headmaster, I have been keen to help people grow and develop their skills and to now move into a position of mentoring our leading coaches is something I'm really looking forward to," Henry said. "New Zealand has an outstanding crop of up-and-coming international coaches."

BLUES TEAM

Starting XV: Isaia Toeava, David Raikuna, Rene Ranger, Sherwin Stowers, Michael Hobbs, Piri Weepu, Alby Mathewson, Jerome Kaino (c), Daniel Braid, Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau.

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 31 Jul 2014 13:41:18 Processing Time: 622ms