Rugby

All Blacks drop Piri Weepu

2013-08-04 12:12
Piri Weepu (File)

Wellington - Piri Weepu's 71-Test career came to a halt Sunday as the accelerated pace of the game demanded by the All Blacks proved too much for the 29-year-old.

New Zealand's second-most capped scrumhalf was the surprise omission from the 28-man All Blacks squad named for the Rugby Championship with his place taken by 21-year-old TJ Perenara.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has placed great faith in the high-octane brand of rugby he wants from the World Champion side, even if it comes at the expense of popular players.

"We just felt that how we are trying to play the game, the speed of the game we are trying to play, Piri is just struggling with that," Hansen said, noting the writing was on the wall in the third Test against France in June.

"His last game really confirmed what our thoughts were. The speed of the game getting from A to B to C (has increased) and because of that his skill set is not flourishing."

The nuggety No 9 with the infectious grin tweeted a brief "Down but not out.. As always.. Lol" message as the squad was named for the Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

Since his debut in 2004, Weepu has benefitted from the job-sharing role of the modern-era Test player as he carved out impressive statistics based on his valuable reputation as a supersub.

Of his 71 Tests, 46 were off the bench and he played a full game in only three Tests. He also captained the All Blacks in a midweek tour match against Munster in 2008 and regularly led the haka.

In 2007 he was dropped from the All Blacks World Cup squad, but bounced back to become a cult hero in New Zealand during the 2011 tournament.

All Blacks fans sported "Keep Calm, Piri's On" t-shirts and websites were launched in his honour after he assumed goalkicking duties when Dan Carter was injured.

He landed seven penalty goals in the quarter-final against Argentina and four in the semi-final against Australia.

Although Weepu has in the past been criticised for letting his fitness levels drop, Hansen acknowledged he was worked on his conditioning this year in an attempt to meet the critical levels demanded but in the end had come up short.

"When we sat down and talked to him he understood what we were talking about," Hansen said.

"He has been an outstanding contributor to New Zealand rugby and his greatest hour was through that World Cup in 2011 when he really stood up and played particularly well.

"He has been a great servant to the All Blacks and been an important part of our team for a long time both on and off the field. Like all of us there will be a time when it is time to make the change and the three selectors as a group feel this is the time."

Along with the dropping of Weepu, forwards Victor Vito and Matt Todd who also played against France in June have been cut from the Rugby Championship squad while Rene Ranger made himself unavailable for family reasons.

All Blacks squad:

Forwards: Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Andrew Hore (Highlanders), Keven Mealamu (Blues), Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Tony Woodcock (Highlanders), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Steven Luatua (Blues), Richie McCaw (captain) (Crusaders), Liam Messam (Chiefs), Kieran Read (Crusaders)

Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Daniel Carter (Crusaders), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Ma'a Nonu (Highlanders), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Crusaders), Charles Piutau (Blues), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Ben Smith (Highlanders).

The squad has been bolstered by an additional three players - Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes), Francis Saili (Blues) and Frank Halai (Blues) - who will train with the team at the start of each Test week.

Prop Joe Moody (Crusaders) has also been brought in as injury cover for Crockett who will miss the start of the Rugby Championship with a knee injury.

Read more on:    all blacks  |  piri weepu  |  rugby
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