Piri Weepu: London Welsh capture New Zealand scrum-half

Piri Weepu
Weepu will be a "big loss" for Auckland Blues, according to coach John Kirwan

Premiership newcomers London Welsh have signed World Cup-winning All Black scrum-half Piri Weepu.

The 30-year-old has won 71 caps for New Zealand, and played a pivotal role in their World Cup victory in 2011.

The Auckland Bluesexternal-link player suffered a minor stroke in March and had a heart operation but has made a full recovery.

London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: "It's a signing that speaks for itself and a massive statement of intent from the club."

Chris Jones, BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter
"London Welsh's surprise promotion back to the Premiership has resulted in a huge recruitment drive, with the arrival of Weepu the most high-profile signing by some distance. Although Weepu has had some serious health issues of late, he is only 30, and should be a significant asset to the club - and the Premiership - with his experience, physical approach and game-management."

Burnell said Weepu's arrival would help the club "to compete in the Aviva Premiership next season - and not just survive", adding: "It's also going to be a fantastic opportunity for the younger players within our squad to mix and learn from a player of Piri's experience and ability."

Weepu, who will link up with his new club in August, said: "I'm hugely excited by the opportunity of joining London Welsh and at the challenge of playing in the Aviva Premiership."

Welsh were promoted to the Premiership after a season out of English rugby's top-flight, and Burnell's side have been on a huge recruitment drive as they look to avoid relegation.

Weepu is their 21st signing since beating Bristol in the two-leg Championship play-off final, while 25 players have been released.

Piri Weepu
Weepu was the starting scrum-half in the 2011 World Cup final, in which the All Blacks defeated France 8-7

The other new faces include Argentina prop Pablo Henn, former England fly-half Olly Barkley and Australian back-row forward Lachlan McCaffrey, previously with Brumbies.

Weepu began his career at Wellington and has also played Super Rugby for Hurricanes.

Blues coach John Kirwan said: "He will be a big loss for us. We were keen for him to stay but we understand fully.

"He's been a great servant of the game. It's great for him to go overseas and get a new experience.

"He's helped us win a World Cup. He's been a great All Black. It's a good natural progression that he rolls on. He'll be remembered fondly. We'll all miss him. He's a special man."