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Autumn internationals, Sport

Wales v New Zealand: ban hit Keven Mealamu hard

Keven Mealamu, New Zealand, Wales, England, sport, rugby union, rugby, Cardiff, Millennium StadiumNew Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu has described the fall-out from his ban for striking England captain Lewis Moody with his head as the toughest period of his eight-year international career.

The 31-year-old Blues forward was initially handed a four-week suspension after being cited over the incident, which appeared to show him butting Moody as the flanker lay on the ground during the All Blacks’ 26-16 victory at Twickenham.

That ban was reduced to two weeks on appeal meaning the 82-cap front-rower is available for selection as Graham Henry’s side look to clinch a third successful Grand Slam tour against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

And Mealamu admits it has been tough having to look on, and spoke of his relief at being cleared of an intentional butt by that appeal hearing.

He said: “I definitely think (it has been the toughest period of my career) there is nothing worse than being suspended.

“I have had good support from the team and from family at home and that has been really important to me. You try and draw the positives from these things and it has given me a chance to prepare well for Saturday and get the best out of the situation.

“When the ban was cut to two weeks I was stoked – it was nothing to do with the head, it was reckless and I could have hurt him, but that can happen to any player in the clean-out position as so many players are down there.

“Most of the video clips were from just the one angle but we had a few more that showed it was leading with the shoulder.”

And Mealamu is adamant the suspension will not see him change his game when it comes to the tackle area.

He continued: “It may be at the back of my mind but I have to do my job, which is to remove people from the ruck if they are getting in the way or slowing the ball down. You have to be physical to be able to move people but I may be a little more careful.”

New Zealand enter Saturday’s Cardiff contest having not lost to Wales in 57 years, and the home side’s hopes of ending that miserable run appear to be slim at best following their dire display in Friday’s 16-16 draw with Fiji.

But Mealamu insists the All Blacks are paying little attention to that result, instead focusing on the performances Wales put in against Australia and South Africa, with Warren Gatland’s side narrowly failing to defeat the world champions.

He added: “I know (Fijian-born New Zealand wing) Joe Rokocoko was shouting his head off in his room watching it. He was going crazy. We watched it and it was an enjoyable game but we can’t take much out of that.

“They will be up for it with the crowd behind them and because of the history of the two teams. Hopefully the fact that Graham Henry and Steve Hansen have coached Wales before can offer us some insight.

“They played really well against Australia and South Africa and could have got more out of those Tests, they were very unlucky against South Africa and we need to make sure we step up for what will be a tough Test against the Welsh.”

 

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About Tim Hart

Cardiff University Postgraduate Student

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