England v New Zealand, Twickenham, November 6
Mealamu bristles at England 'disrespect'
November 6, 2010
Keven Mealamu enjoys a lighter moment at All Blacks training © Getty Images
New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu has added fuel to the war of words leading into his side's test with England on Saturday by claiming the All Blacks have been "disrespected".
The arrival of New Zealand in the northern hemisphere has brought up the usual debate about the validity of the pre-match Haka and Mealamu also bristled at comments from the England camp questioning the much-vaunted fast-flowing style of play seen in the Tri-Nations tournament.
Mealamu said: "You see a few comments in the paper … them having a crack at the haka and saying the rugby we play down there isn't test match football. I suppose you see it as arrogance and a bit of disrespect as well."
England hardly need a fired up All Blacks across the pitch when they step onto Twickenham, but Mealamu is expecting plenty of physicality from his opponents as well.
"There's something about playing England, the physical side is always talked about," Mealamu said. "As a forward, those are the challenges you really look forward to. You know they're going to come at you at scrum time and the rucks are going to be tough."
Mealamu said he is expecting to face a typically cynical England despite the rave reviews New Zealand and Australia have received for their fast-paced, expansive style of play, which was most recently evident in last week's fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Hong Kong.
"I hope there's going to be a lot more positive play," said Mealamu, sounding far from convinced. "We only have to look back to last weekend to see what the game can be like."
But England, at home, in autumn, was not such a heart-warming prospect - and it has prompted him to warn those Twickenham first-timers of what to expect.
The All Blacks declined to retaliate when England's players queued for the sin bin two years ago and Mealamu said the same restraint was required from inexperienced lock Sam Whitelock, Alby Mathewson - who starts at halfback for the first time -- and an obvious target for English aggression, the game's most anticipated debutant in recent memory, Sonny Bill Williams.
"We've got to stay squeaky clean, we can't get sucked into that messy stuff," Mealamu said. "That's what we're trying to get across to some of the newer guys who haven't experienced that before. Sam, Sonny Bill, as well. We've just got to keep playing the game."
While Williams' temperament is sure to be tested, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was confident the 25-year-old could keep his mind focused.
"He's been in big games before. He's played international league and in Europe, he's been in big occasions, it won't be a big issue," McCaw said. "Like anyone playing their first cap he'll have those sorts of emotions but I'm sure he'll handle it.
"I've been really impressed over the last two weeks how he's fitted in. He's picked up everything we've been doing pretty easily. I guess I saw that when he was playing for Canterbury."
Meanwhile, McCaw agreed with Mealamu's assertion that England would not necessarily attempt to mimic the fast-paced game plan perfected by the All Blacks and Wallabies during the Tri-Nations.
"The way the rules are it allows good rewards for having good go-forward and ball in hand but I just think back to the tests we've played against England in the past," he said. "They've been physical battles, I don't think it will be much different."
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