Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Piri Weepu benched by Blues

Piri Weepu of the Blues during the round five Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Hurricanes on March 23. Photo / Getty
Piri Weepu of the Blues during the round five Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Hurricanes on March 23. Photo / Getty

World Cup final halfback Piri Weepu has been benched by the Blues as they regroup for the start of their must-win Super 15 trek.

Weepu was one of the franchise's major signings this season but was cut some slack when he arrived out of shape. He began the series on the bench before starting twice at halfback then five eighths in the last three matches.

That selection shuffle has stopped for the Blues resumption after the bye tomorrow against the Rebels in Melbourne.

Weepu has been assigned the No 20 jersey with Alby Mathewson preferred at halfback to partner restored young five-eighths Gareth Anscombe.

Coach Pat Lam said those decisions would be made on a weekly basis, depending on the opposition, the strategies and form of the Blues players.

"We go from week to week," Lam said. "We believe with the game against the Rebels and the way we want to play, that Alby is the best person to start and Piri coming off the bench and that's it."

That decision had nothing to do with fitness, it was a case of what suited the Blues best for their game plan and structure against the Rebels.

People might wonder about the revolving selections but that was the approach coaches had to take with the Super 15. The tournament was a grind and there were so many other factors which came into selection.

Rene Ranger is back from his two-week ban onto the wing while Rudi Wulf has gone to fullback and Lachie Munro onto the other wing.

Skipper Keven Mealamu is also reinstated at hooker after his calf muscle strain while Filo Paulo has been picked at lock in the only two changes in the pack.

Lam was buoyant about the Blues returning to action. They had sifted through the failings which left them with one win from five outings, they had trained strongly and were ready to give the series a rattle.

"We ruled a line on where we were, we take the learnings out of that and we have nine games on the trot starting with this week and the only thing we can control is what we do day to day." the coach said.

The whole squad was involved in the side's struggling fortunes and they were all committed to improving and repairing the damage.

Victories and improved performances would be a great boost to the side's psyche.

Plans for the team axis at No 8, 9 and 10 had been affected because of factors like Jerome Kaino's season-ending shoulder injury and Michael Hobbs' absence at his father's funeral. But the Blues had to deal with those issues.

"For us, ultimately, we will be judged on results and that is why we are getting a hammering and rightly so," Lam agreed. "We have not got the results and that is what we are determined to do."

The Blues had to examine their own form and the entire squad and staff had sifted their work.People were free to criticise the Blues and their performances, that showed their passion for the game. Lam felt reinvigorated after distilling his work and ideas.

"That's what it all comes back too. That's given me real clarity," he said.

"When you look at the situation - we're not happy, I'm not happy - and when you go through everything with a fine toothcomb you realise there needs to be some changes."

The last few days training had been the best of the season because everyone was much clearer on their work.

"We know we have let the franchise down, we have let the team down and we are committed as a group to keep climbing."

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 16 Sep 2014 13:51:32 Processing Time: 820ms