London Welsh vs Exeter Chiefs: Stroke victim Piri Weepu makes Welsh debut

Weepu was found to have a hole in his heart that caused an irregular blood flow from birth

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With a daily dose of aspirin as an everlasting reminder of a brush with his own mortality, Piri Weepu will make his debut for London Welsh against Exeter on Sunday, aiming to add survival in the Premiership to a CV boasting the achievement of winning the World Cup with his native New Zealand.

It was six months ago, in a swimming pool in Auckland, that Weepu, a scrum-half with 71 Tests for the All Blacks, suffered a minor stroke. “I was doing recovery the day after a game,” Weepu said, in a break from training for his new club’s return to the top division.

“I was with [team-mates] Peter Saili and Charles Piutau, doing lengths and stretching. And mid-conversation, I couldn’t talk properly. I was talking like a baby. I had blurred vision, I was spacing out and couldn’t function. I got out of the pool, the boys were talking to me and I didn’t know what they were talking about, I was just trying to focus on getting dressed. I managed to get home driving, and tried to wait it out so that I could get back to reality, and talk to the doctor.”


A scan diagnosed a hole in the heart that had been there since birth. A month after the pool incident, and having been in tears giving his mum, Kura, the news, Weepu had surgery to insert a patch over the gap in his septum that was causing an irregular blood flow, and was taking full contact again within a fortnight.

“I didn’t have the loss of feeling down the side of the body you hear about with a major stroke,” said Weepu, 31 today. “I’m stuck on aspirin [which thins the blood] for the rest of my life but I was really fortunate it was not more serious.”