RUGBY UNION: Piri relishing life at Welsh

Members of the London Welsh squad at Oxford Town Hall this week. From left: Piri Weepu, Bleddyn Phillips (London Welsh chairman), Matt Corker, Mohammed Abbasi (Oxford Lord Mayor) and Tom May

Members of the London Welsh squad at Oxford Town Hall this week. From left: Piri Weepu, Bleddyn Phillips (London Welsh chairman), Matt Corker, Mohammed Abbasi (Oxford Lord Mayor) and Tom May

First published in Sport Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter specialising in Rugby, Cricket and Athletics. Call me on 01865 425456

World Cup winning superstar Piri Weepu is more than happy to muck in at London Welsh.

The scrum half, who won 71 caps for New Zealand and was part of their 2011 World-Cup winning side, only arrived at Oxford-based Welsh last week.

Although he is now clearly the biggest name in the Exiles’ squad, his first action was to be a water boy in their pre-season friendly victory at Pontypridd.

“Anything to do with the squad and getting to know my teammates, I am up for it,” he said of his Welsh ‘debut’.

“It’s good to just get involved.”

Weepu, 30, was already familair with Exiles players Nathan Vella and Taione Vea, but is relishing getting to know his new teammates.

He said: “I knew a few of the boys, but I am enjoying getting to know the others.

“It’s great to be involved here.

“At the end of the day, you go into battle with them.

“You have to know they have got your back as you have got theirs.”

Weepu has been the Exiles’ highest profile signing of the summer and joins them from Super 15 side Auckland Blues.

“I got the opportunity and really wanted to come over here after playing Super Rugby for the last 11 years,” he said.

“I wanted to come here and see what the competition was like and get a feel of it really.

“I thought about it a lot. I wanted to make the most of my opportunities while I have them.

“As an athlete, you are limited by time.”

Weepu overcame a minor stroke in March to return to the field with the Blues and is now looking forward to his Welsh debut..

“I have not spoken to the coaching staff in terms of when I will play,” he said.

“I am just seeing how things play out and making sure I am fit and ready for my chance.

“I was trying to see if I could play some club rugby back home, but it didn’t work out, so I have managed to have a little break since the Super 15 season.

“I was able to spend some quality time with my kids before I came over here.”

Weepu added: “The coaches are introducing me slowly at this stage. It’s a case of not wishing to push it too much.

“I had my first full day of training on Tuesday.”

Weepu, who is also a handy kicker, admits he will have to adapt his style to the often attritional Premier- ship.

He said: “I have seen games here and there and I have talked to a few of the boys I know playing over here.

“But the whole competition is fairly new to me. It will take a bit to get used to.”

Weepu made his first appearance in Oxford this week when the Welsh squad were honoured for their promotion into the Premiership with a civil reception at the Town Hall with Lord Mayor Mohammed Abbasi.

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