London Welsh are today expected to announce the signing of Piri Weepu from the Auckland Blues, according to reliable sources.
It marks another huge signing in their already impressive recruitment drive, with the 71-cap All Black set to bring real experience of rugby at the very top level. He will join the likes of Olly Barkley and Tim Molenaar in what is starting to look like a very useful back line.
Weepu’s career is yet to take him outside of New Zealand, beginning his career in Wellington both for the ITM Cup side and the Hurricanes, before moving to Auckland and the Blues. It is understood that he has expressed a desire to play in the Aviva Premiership.
Blues head coach John Kirwan has confirmed that Weepu will leave the franchise at the end of the current Super Rugby season.
“He’s been a great Blues man the last four years. He’s a fantastic team man,” said Kirwan. “He really cares about the players around him. He will be a big loss for us. We were keen for him to stay but we understand fully. He’s had a couple of options on the go.
“He’s been a great servant of the game. It’s great for him to go overseas and get a new experience. He’s helped us win a World Cup. He’s been a great All Black. It’s a good natural progression that he rolls on. He’ll be remembered fondly. We’ll all miss him. He’s a special man.”
London Welsh have already recruited an astonishing 20 players ahead of their return to the top league in September, and head coach Justin Burnell recently confirmed that they were in the market for at least five more. None of them are likely to be as big a name as Weepu.
Burnell recently spoke of looking to the Super 15 franchises, whose seasons are about to end, to bring in players, and with Weepu’s international career seemingly at an end (he has not played for the All Blacks since June 2013) he would be a sensible signing, given that he is unlikely to feature in the upcoming Rugby Championship.
As we await the official confirmation, what do you think of Weepu as a signing?
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images