Planet Rugby

Weepu can prevent Welsh relegation

11th July 2014 10:13

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Risk and reward: Piri Weepu

The arrival of Piri Weepu on English soil is a massive statement by London Welsh, even if there are risks attached.

The 30-year-old World Cup winner has made the move to the Premiership with the league's newest side for a reported £150-200k a year deal until 2016.

It's a major signing by a club that few fancied to defeat Bristol in the Championship Final. Few have also tipped them to stay up, but this signing changes matters.

Weepu joins a crop of incomings that includes Olly Barkley, Tim Molenaar, Lachlan McCaffrey, Koree Britton, Nic Reynolds and more. But he's easily the biggest name on the list.

Naturally there is a bit of hesitance when it comes to branding Weepu's signing as an instant success.

This is partly down to Weepu's health. The All Black suffered a minor stroke back in March but has returned to Super Rugby action with the Blues, although the form of young number nine Bryn Hall has kept him on the bench.

His most recent run-out of course came in the Singapore 10s - the tournament in which Welsh also participated and first set the wheels in motion to bring Weepu to the north.

Until Weepu consistently strings together a number of starts, the trepidation over how successful a signing he can be will continue.

It's slightly unfair on a man who was won 74 caps and scored over 100 points for New Zealand, along with starting the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final. But it's also a necessary precaution.

Additionally, the 2011 crop haven't always been transformed into success stories after moving to England.

Jimmy Cowan, Weepu's main rival for the All Blacks, has now left Gloucester after not quite hitting the heights expected of him.

Stephen Donald, the man whose drop-goal won the World Cup, was never fully loved at Bath in the same manner as other international stars such as Francois Louw.

Weepu won't necessarily follow that trend - it's more an indication that success isn't guaranteed.

What Weepu will bring over to Welsh though is a brilliant rugby brain. His game management and experience of grim New Zealand conditions means there are no fears about him adapting to an English winter.

With a cultured boot and good vision, he's exactly what Welsh need and could form an effective half-back combination with former England international Barkley to help guide Welsh's unforgiving pack around the park.

The 22nd signing to join the Exiles ahead of next season might be the one that keeps them in the Premiership if all goes as hoped.

The news of him joining London Welsh should give Newcastle, the other likely side to be in the battle to stay up, a little cause for concern.

by Ben Coles

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