All Blacks and Blues halfback Piri Weepu has been ruled out of Super Rugby for at least a month after suffering a minor stroke.
Weepu, 30, will undergo testing after suffering the stroke earlier this month and he is expected to make a full recovery, the Auckland-based Blues said on Thursday.
Weepu, a hero of New Zealand’s 2011 World Cup triumph, had complained of migraine-like symptoms dating back to March 1.
Expert diagnosis of a scan on Monday determined he had suffered a minor stroke which is considered to be non-rugby related and unlikely to have been detected if he wasn’t in such a closely monitored environment.
Blues coach John Kirwan said the franchise would offer 71-Test veteran Weepu and his family its full support during a time of uncertainty.
“He’s getting the best possible care and advice and we are grateful this has been picked up by our medical experts, as often minor strokes remain undetected,” Kirwan said.
Blues doctor Stephen Kara, consulting with New Zealand Rugby medical director Dr Ian Murphy, said Weepu would undergo further tests to determine the cause of the stroke.
He said it appeared to have occurred before the team travelled to South Africa in early March.
Kara said Weepu was cleared by specialists to travel, under monitoring, after he displayed symptoms that could have been a migraine before the team flew out of Auckland.
“He had no other symptoms to raise further concern,” Dr Kara said.
“We took the precaution of getting an MRI scan for him this week and we are thankful we are now getting to the bottom of this issue.”
After consulting with Auckland City Hospital specialists, Kara is confident the stroke was unrelated to any rugby injury.
“However, any stroke is serious for anyone at any age and we must now take the time to fully understand the cause of it and the implications for Piri.”
NZR general manager Neil Sorensen says the national body and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association would also provide support for Weepu.
Weepu tweeted thanks for messages of support he had received after the news became public, adding: “I’m sweet, looking forward to getting back on the park as soon as possible.”