Piri Weepu . . . out of action with a rib injury. PHOTO/FILE

GARY CAFFELL

Former All Black Piri Weepu will be a non-starter in Wairarapa-Bush’s Heartland Championship rugby match against West Coast at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday.

Weepu was forced from the field by a rib injury in the early stages of Wairarapa-Bush’s fixture with South Canterbury in Timaru last weekend and has not recovered sufficiently enough to be considered for selection for a match which will end their 2017 Heartland campaign.

While Weepu’s absence is yet another blow to a Wairarapa-Bush squad which has been beset by injuries all season, his obvious replacement in the starting lineup, Inia Katia, has consistently made a positive impact in his regular appearances off the bench and will revel in the opportunity to have greater game time.

His understudy will be Carterton’s Daryl Pickering, who has previous experience in that role.

If the problems around Weepu’s loss were relatively easy to solve for head coach Joe Harwood and his assistant James Bruce, the same cannot be said around the propping positions where they have Jacko Hull out of contention through injury, Gerard Fatotoi no longer available after signing a contract in Dubai and both Matt Kawana and Jayden Mason battling injury hassles which may, or may not, have them sidelined as well.

It is largely because of the uncertainty surrounding the front row that the confirmation of the Wairarapa-Bush team was delayed until Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s match is guaranteed to attract a good number of referees with the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Referees Association holding their old-timers’ day.

Referee for the Heartland game, which kicks off at the later-than-usual time of 6pm, will be Nick Webster of North Otago with Alistair Payne and Chris Jeferees as his assistants.