Burnell hails remarkable Weepu

Date published: August 29 2014

Piri Weepu's “remarkable” recovery from a minor stroke proves the World Cup winner still has the tenacity to thrive in the Aviva Premiership, according to London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell.

All Blacks scrum-half Weepu underwent surgery to repair a small hole in his heart after suffering the stroke in February, but was back in action for the Blues just a month later.

Weepu is one of 25 summer recruits for London Welsh's Premiership return, with Burnell tipping the 30-year-old to shine in England's top flight, having made an immediate impact at Welsh, proving beyond doubt his commitment to the new challenge.

“He's already fitted in really well and is working extremely hard,” said Burnell.

“His quick recovery from his illness I think speaks volumes on his character too. He could have decided that was enough there and then, but again he has taken up a big challenge.

“I don't know all the ins and outs, but it's remarkable really, being back at the level in a matter of months. Sometimes you hear about a player suffering an injury or an illness and then all of a sudden they are retired.

“Piri's just turned round and rolled up his sleeves again, that's what he always does I think, and that's why the lads here have already taken to him. We're delighted to have him here and he's a big, big leader for us.

“If you talk to anyone about Piri they will tell you he's just a good, honest guy who has the ability to fit in wherever he goes. The biggest asset is his ability to mix in there and lead people too.”

Pleasing progress

Underdogs Welsh claimed surprise promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt, seeing off big-spending hot favourites Bristol in June's two-legged promotion play-off.

Former England playmaker Olly Barkley, ex-Sale and Toulon lock Dean Schofield and Argentina prop Pablo Henn top the list of new recruits, along with Weepu.

Ex-Newcastle, Northampton and Toulon centre Tom May will skipper Welsh from the field, with Matt Corker remaining club captain.

Burnell said Welsh had just three weeks between gaining promotion and the start of pre-season, leaving them with no choice but to start recruitment from scratch straight after beating Bristol.

Burnell is pleased with progress the new addition have made to the squad.

He added: “I'm very pleased with how everyone's settling in, even though there's a large number of new faces to the squad all the lads have jumped straight in and it's not fazed them one bit.