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Weepu relishing Welsh chance

Piri Weepu is ready to repay London Welsh for looking past his medical history and handing him his "one and only opportunity" for a move to Europe.

The former All Blacks scrum-half suffered a minor stroke in February, caused by a small hole in his heart.

The 71-cap half-back made a quick and full recovery, returning to action in less than two months.

Weepu could have had his pick of moves to Europe after helping New Zealand claim the 2011 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

The former Auckland Blues playmaker admitted the offers had dried up three years on however, hailing Welsh head coach Justin Burnell for bringing him to the Aviva Premiership.

"This was probably my one and only opportunity, I don't think I would have had anything on the table at all a year down the line," Weepu told Press Association Sport.

"This was the only opportunity I had at the time, and maybe what happened in February had a bearing on that, I'm not entirely sure to be honest.

"So it was a straightforward decision between staying at home and coming across.

"I've just got to enjoy it and live life.

"I can't really think about what happened in March too much, I've just got to grab this chance with both hands.

"I made a full recovery and I know that's extremely fortunate, so I can't waste this chance.

"I've got Justin to thank for me being here, he's given me the opportunity and I don't want to let him or anyone else down.

"I had to make my decision really quickly and figure out whether it was for me.

"When it did come up I wasn't too sure but speaking to my family, especially my older brother Billy, that convinced me.

"There's not a lot of mileage on a rugby player, so you've got to make the most of your opportunities."

Weepu will make his debut for Welsh in Sunday's Premiership opener, as the promoted club host Exeter Chiefs at Oxford's Kassam Stadium.

The former Wellington Hurricanes half-back will celebrate his 31st birthday on his competitive Welsh bow.

Weepu admitted he knows most neutral observers could tip Welsh to struggle this term, but called for a simple antidote: to earn Premiership respect through hard graft.

"Preparation is what will keep us competitive, we've got to be relentless with that, working on our structures and planning for different opponents," he said.

"If we can do that right then we'll get respect in terms of what we're trying to achieve, and then hopefully we won't have to worry about relegation.

"If you focus too much on that then your whole mindset's all wrong from the get-go."


From Belfast Telegraph