Slimline Piri Weepu tonic for Blues
February 14, 2013
Piri Weepu accepts he was overweight was months ago, and let the Blues down in 2012 © Getty Images
A trim and motivated Piri Weepu will make his first appearance for the Blues this year in their final Super Rugby pre-season match against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday.
The experienced All Blacks halfback accepts he was overweight at the same stage 12 months ago and let the Blues down with his form early in the team's forgettable season.
Weepu has made it a priority to lead this year's young side by example.
"I'm pretty motivated to make sure I play a bigger role than last year," he said.
"I've done a lot of work outside the camp to get myself in better nick than I was last year. I've been trying to maintain that and make sure that when I come into camp I'm not behind the boys."
The IRB Rugby World Cup-winning No. 9 was impressed by the speed at which the Blues have played in their first two pre-season games, and hoped his lungs would be ready.
Blues coach John Kirwan says Piri Weepu has been "outstanding" since joining the team midway through their off-season training regime.
"I didn't know Piri (before I started coaching the Blues)," Kirwan said. "I'd heard a lot of great things about him in the environment but he's actually been brilliant."
The Blues will field a near full-strength side, with All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina making his first start at tight-head and Charles Piutau returning from injury at fullback.
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala; Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua; Ali Williams (captain), Culum Retallick; Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Liaki Moli, Ronald Raaymakers, Sean Polwart, Kane Barrett, Joe Edwards, Bryn Hall, Jackson Willison, Baden Kerr, Marty McKenzie, Pita Ahki.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.