Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: 'Benji saga a distraction but he'll be missed' - Weepu

Blues halfback Piri Weepu has admitted the Benji Marshall saga has been a distraction for the team, but that the former league player, now looking for a return to the NRL, will be missed.

"Yes, it has been a bit of a distraction, but that's just something that we'll work on as a team ... It's tough when you [have] one of your mates go like that but we've just got to pull together and stay tight,'' Weepu said this morning.

The Blues have been instructed by the New Zealand Rugby Union not to comment at all about Marshall's early release from his two-year contract. Coach John Kirwan stuck steadfastly to that line when announcing his team to play the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday, but Weepu was more forthcoming.

Asked if he would miss Marshall, a high-profile league convert who is quitting after only half a season, Weepu said: "He's been awesome, he's been great to have around the team and it's probably going to be sad to not have his cheeky comments on the field and in and out of the workplace.''

Kirwan began the media session by apologising for not being able to comment about Marshall's departure. "I would have liked to have come out and spoken to you about what is going on but we're a little bit tied up with the process which is going on. As soon as we get the okay we'll be talking to you.

"This afternoon hopefully we'll be able to tell you more.''

Kirwan denied it had been a distraction. "It's a situation that we need to deal with,'' he said.

Weepu has been named on the reserves bench for Friday's match after recovering from his health issues. He recently had minor surgery to fix a hole in his heart which is believed to have caused his stroke at the start of last month.

"I don't know how the fitness is, we'll see when I'm running around with the boys,'' he said. "But I've been chipping way at it for the last two weeks or week and a half and I'm feeling pretty good actually.''


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