Piri Weepu’s story is one of the most fascinating New Zealand rugby stories ever told. Born into a strong rugby league family — Piri’s brother Billy actually played for the Kiwis — Piri has risen to the very pinnacle of rugby union, while at the same time never losing his great love of the 13-man code. At 28, and in the year of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Weepu was finally given his opportunity . . . . and didn’t he take it well. For years he had been in the shadows of Jimmy Cowan (not to mention a number of other first-choicers) but on the world stage, Piri stepped up to the mark and won the hearts of a nation. He kicked the goals for the All Blacks, he kicked for position and, in the absence of the incomparable Dan Carter, he ran the backline. His man of the match performance for the All Blacks in the quarter-final against Argentina and then another superb display against arch-rivals Australia in the semi-final cemented his place in New Zealand rugby folklore. This is more than a rugby story, though. This is a story of a little battler who has struggled with serious injury and fitness for a number of years, who has struggled to express himself because of an innate shyness, but who finally won over a nation on the greatest sporting stage.
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