Recalled Weepu sticks with New Zealand rugby

Yahoo!Xtra Sport / Neil Reid
Yahoo Sport

Piri Weepu has turned his back on a possible switch to league, or overseas rugby union contracts, to re-sign with the NZRU until the end of 2010.

Weepu, 24, was considering a shift off-shore at the end of 2008, in either code, following his omission from the All Blacks training squad named in late May.

But since then he has battled his way back into the All Blacks, due to a combination of both strong form for New Zealand Maori and injuries to Brendon Leonard and Andy Ellis.

His return has seen him appear in the All Blacks' recent test wins over the Wallabies and Springboks, coming off the bench in both matches.

NZRU general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen, said Weepu's re-signing was significant for the NZRU.

"Piri is an outstanding rugby player and to have him play in New Zealand is fantastic for us," Sorenson said.

"He has represented New Zealand at the highest level and he has been an influential player for his province and franchise as well.

"We are delighted that rugby will continue to benefit from his talent and experience."

Weepu's signing of a two-year extension follows huge uncertainty over his playing future.

The 22-test veteran had been linked with a shift to league.

He comes from strong league links, including his elder brother Billy who previously played first-grade NRL for the Manly Sea Eagles.

Weepu has also spoken of his desire to eventually play for the Kiwis.

Last year he spent time training with the Newcastle Knights during the contentious All Blacks' conditioning program.

Weepu eventually missed out on All Black selection for the World Cup, with questions asked of his off-field professionalism.

But this year a motivated and slim-line Weepu has been back on top of his game.

Wellington Rugby Football Union chief executive said Weepu's retention was great news for Wellington and New Zealand rugby.

"Piri is one of the most talented players in New Zealand rugby and has a major role to play with both the Hurricanes and the Wellington Lions," he said.

"At the age of just 24, he has already earned an astonishing 56 caps for the Hurricanes, 41 for the Wellington Lions and 22 for the All Blacks, with plenty more to come.

"He is developing into a highly respected leader both on and off the field and we’re delighted that he has chosen to remain playing his rugby in Wellington."