All Blacks Rugby: Piri Weepu Dropped for Rugby Championship

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IIAugust 4, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Piri Weepu of New Zealand All Blacks leads the Haka during the QBE International match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on December 1, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

Piri Weepu was the big omission from today's All Blacks squad announcement, with the veteran scrum-half replaced by the uncapped TJ Perenara in a 28-man squad for the 2013 Rugby Championship. 

The move will be a surprise to some, given the selectors persistence with Weepu over the past 18 months despite his obvious lack of form and fitness. Indeed his 2013 form has been better than last year and it is somewhat surprising that he would be dropped after retaining his place last year.

Perhaps it was just a case of Weepu being given more than enough time. The All Black selectors are renowned for giving out-of-form players a chance to prove themselves, even if it means overlooking another player.

The efforts made with Israel Dagg, Aaron Smith and Ma'a Nonu earlier in the year are examples of this. All were outstanding in June against France, but struggled to show any sort of form for the majority of the Super 15 leading up to the series.

But of course everyone has a breaking point and for Weepu this was it. 

The move should ultimately help the All Blacks. In 2012 Weepu appeared too slow and not fit enough to play the All Blacks' style. He took too long organising his runners, leaving the ball in the ruck and allowing opposition defences time to organise, while also often only getting to every second ruck. 

This made for a slow game and in direct contrast to the style the All Blacks like to play. It prevents their dangerous backs receiving the ball in space and kills much of the momentum the forwards are gaining. This in turn nullifies a lot of the benefits of getting such clean front-foot ball.

Weepu's form last year was a far-cry from 2011, when he was labelled "Mr Fix-it" after he played a couple of blinders to see the All Blacks through crucial moments of the Rugby World Cup. He kicked accurately and was far quicker around the field.

Unfortunately he has not reached these heights since and his lack of fitness has seen him on the chopping block for the past two seasons.

At 21, Perenara is mature for his age. He has a very good tactical game, kicks well and is extremely strong in contact. If there is one criticism, it would be that he may lack a yard of pace. But this is a small blight on a very good player.

Of course he will need to earn his stripes and finds himself behind scrum-half rivals Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the pecking order. But overall Perenara should be a positive addition to the squad and could be wearing black for many years to come.

The other notable omission from the squad was Victor Vito, who seems to have suffered from the selectors' efforts to find a free-roaming blindside flanker rather than a hard worker. 

Skipper Richie McCaw returns to the team after a six month sabbatical which saw him miss the June tests and is the only other addition to the squad that took on France two months ago.