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Weepu to play after all

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Friday, October 15, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The All Blacks halfback was due to be in Melbourne with Cory Jane on All Blacks promotional duties but 'personal reasons' have kept him in the capital and he will join fellow All Black Ma'a Nonu in a bolstered Lions back line for Saturday's ITM Cup showdown with Taranaki.

"I've got a few issues going on so I've got to stay at home and sort them out," Weepu said. "I've spoken to [the All Blacks management] and they know what's going on.

"It's been frantic the last 24 hours and I've put my hand up [to play] and they've let me have the opportunity to have a run out on Saturday."

Weepu was a key figure in Wellington's win over North Harbour last weekend as he steered the team well from first five-eighths.

With him at the helm they showed greater direction on attack and played their rugby at the right end of the park which resulted in a seven tries to two, 52-23 victory.

Nonu though is happy to take on his share of responsibility of guiding the younger players in the must-win match at Westpac Stadium.

"Sometimes you've just got to take the reins and be accountable and hopefully I can help out with these young guys," he said.

"They've been playing well the last couple of games but it's good that we help out where we can.

"When I first started I was like that as well. I was fresh and raw and all I wanted to do was run with the ball."

Weepu felt the win in Albany had helped lift the confidence after a string of losses had left Wellington in real danger of missing out on an all-important top seven finish.

"Being young and put into a position where you've got to try and take the reins … you're trying to play footy and trying your very best to guide the team around the field," the halfback said.

"So us being involved is helping immensely with their confidence and being able to understand the game a lot better."

That confidence and understanding is going to be crucial against Taranaki who have quietly gone about their work this season to sit second on the table with eight wins and three losses so far.

"The strike power they've got they should be where they are," said Weepu. "Willie [Ripia] guiding them around the field makes things easier and they've got Tyson [Keats] who is also there.

"Their tight five work hard and know what it's like to be confrontational and physical."

The visitors will be without the impressive Andre Taylor after he underwent surgery for a torn bowel during the week and former Wellington wing David Smith is battling a knee injury.

But like Lions coach Andre Bell, who hopes to have Commonwealth Games gold medallist Hosea Gear back on the left wing, Taranaki boss Colin Cooper will been keen for his sevens winners Kurt Baker and Ben Souness to front up in Wellington as well.

Wellington: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata, 4. Jeremy Thrush (capt), 5. Api Naikatini, 6. Faifili Levave, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Victor Vito, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Piri Weepu, 11. Hosea Gear/Alipati Leiua, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 13. Tajhon Mailata, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Apoua Stewart.

Replacements: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Reg Goodes, 18. Brad Shields, 19. Dean Brunsdon, 20. Lima Sopoaga, 21. Charlie Ngatai, 22. Alipati Leiua/Buxton Popoali'i.