New Zealand Rugby
Piri Weepu dumped by All Blacks
August 4, 2013
Piri Weepu may have played his last Test for the All Blacks after a 71-match career © Getty Images
Uncapped Hurricanes player TJ Perenara's call up alongside fellow halfbacks Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow left no room for Weepu in the 28-man New Zealand squad named on Sunday ahead of their opening match against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 17.
It could spell the end of a great international career for 71-Test veteran Weepu, who became something of a folk hero in New Zealand as he also took on the goal-kicking duties late in their victorious 2011 World Cup campaign.
The other omissions from the squad that swept the recent three-match series against France are loose forwards Victor Vito, making way for Steve Lautua, and Matt Todd, who is replaced by returning skipper Richie McCaw, plus prop Ben Afeaki and outside back Rene Ranger.
All Blacks squad
Ranger, who is heading to French club Montpellier at the end of the year, made himself unavailable for family reasons, opting to skipper Northland in the national championship instead.
McCaw makes his return after his six-month sabbatical from the game, having missed all of the Super Rugby championship apart from playing 25 minutes off the bench for the Crusaders in the play-off rounds.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was a tough call on Weepu, but it was time to blood the 21-year-old Perenara.
"He has been impressive over the last couple of years and we feel the timing is right to now bring him into the squad," Hansen said. "On the flipside, it's always difficult and disappointing for players when they miss out on selection, particularly for players like Piri and Victor who have been involved in the team for a number of years."