Rugby: Weepu keen to make an impression

Mocked earlier this year for his weight and poor performances for the Blues, Piri Weepu looks like he has saved his best form in 2012 until last, writes Wynne Gray in Edinburgh.

Piri Weepu
Piri Weepu
It's hard to be certain, but Piri Weepu looks as though he may have shed a kilo or two.

His face looks a little more pinched and that's nothing to do with his media duties or possible confrontation with Scotland on Monday (NZT).

If it's true, Weepu must have been keeping a serious rein on his food intake and knuckled down to regular training as he eyes the inroads Aaron Smith has made at halfback this year with Tawera Kerr-Barlow chasing as well.

Weepu's only international start this season came because Smith broke a team rule and was benched for the Dunedin test against the Springboks.

But he is back with the squad in Europe, waiting to add to his 66 caps and leave a strong end of year impression.

One of next year's Blues staff will be a keen observer. Skills coach Mick Byrne will be ready to nudge the nuggety halfback if he starts to slip back into his comfort patterns as the colder weather bites.

It has been tough this week with some strong winds upsetting the players' rhythm and putting a premium on the passing and kicking skills of men like Weepu.

He ran around a few times in ITM Cup training but, like most in the squad, has not played under the new rules, like the five second use-it-or-lose-it ruck requirement.

"We had a good explanation to us last week from [referee] Garratt [Williamson] so I think the boys are pretty well prepared," Weepu said.

All year the All Blacks had played as if the ball could not sit at the back of the ruck so that law change should not affect them.

"We like to speed the game up anyway. We have got a bit of a rule that the ball is not there for longer than five seconds so the quicker we get there and clear it the better. I don't think it is going to have much effect on the game."

Murrayfield holds warm memories for Weepu, even if the first time he played there it was bitterly cold in 2005.

"A lot of people expect us to run over the Scottish team," he said, "but it is never like that. Every game is a fight. Nothing is ever handed to you and we will definitely be in for a fight against these Scottish boys."

The next two tests were important selection times for every member of the squad.

"I know it is not very nice just watching a game. It's always good to be involved and these next two weeks, everyone will be playing their best rugby," Weepu added.

His spirits were always stronger if he was starting. That gave him an edge and a lift but, if that was not the case, he had to do everything he could to assist the starting halfback.