NATHAN Vella is backing his former Auckland teammate Piri Weepu to shine at London Welsh.

Exiles hooker Vella made his Auckland debut alongside scrum half Weepu in New Zealand’s ITM Cup in 2012.

And now that the former World Cup winning All Black has joined him at Welsh, Vella is tipping Weepu to shine in the Aviva Premiership.

“It will be good to see him again and catch up when he arrives,” said Vella.

“We’re not in the Aviva Premiership just to survive, we’re here to compete and signing someone like Piri is a huge statement.

“I’ve never played in the Premiership myself, but he’s one of those players who will just slot in. He’ll be fine.”

Vella added: “He’s a really good guy, great for the team environment and he’s a really skilful player.

“He’s vocal and he sees the game in a different way to how most people see it.

He’s always willing to help young players and spread his knowledge around.

“He’s down to earth and he’s got time for everyone. He’ll get his head down and just be another member of the team.”

The arrival of Weepu will swell the Kiwi contingent within London Welsh ranks to four, as he joins Daniel Browne, Cameron Goodhue and Vella.

This should ensure plenty of interest in New Zealand as to how the Exiles fare in the Premiership.

“It’s definitely raised the profile of the club back home, and all over the world,” said Vella.

“Piri’s one of the most famous rugby players over the last ten years and it’s really put London Welsh on the map as an Aviva Premiership club.”

  • LONDON Welsh’s team of Gordon Ross, Will Robinson, James Tincknell and Darren Waters won the Oxfordshire Welsh Society’s Golf Day at Frilford Heath.

The Exiles quartet hot-footed it from training at Old Deer Park to see off the challenge of David Jenkins’s team and win by 89 points to 87.

Ross also scooped the prize in the nearest-the-pin competition.