Mealamu fresh for World Cup
August 12, 2011
Mealamu was a constant feature in the Blues side during the 2011 season © Getty Images
All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu admits he is fresh and raring to go despite playing in all of the Blues' Super Rugby games in 2011.
He backed it up by making his 84th Test appearance in New Zealand's 30-14 Bledisloe Cup defeat of Australia in Auckland last Saturday. But while a number of frontline All Blacks are being given a break and won't make the trip to Port Elizabeth to face the Springboks next weekend, Mealamu is more than happy to be on the plane.
There were no issues with fatigue for the 84-Test veteran, who said he was feeling good and was ready to go. "I love playing for the All Blacks," he said. "You never know when it's your last opportunity, so when you get the chance to play for the All Blacks and even skipper them, I'll take that with two hands."
With skipper Richie McCaw among those rested, Mealamu, 32, will get to be Test captain for the second time in his career. The first was against Scotland in November 2008, when he led the All Blacks to a 32-6 victory.
The captaincy was a huge honour, he said, and one that not many players got to experience. "I take it with every inch of pride that I have in my body," he said. "I'm just really looking forward to going out there and doing a good job."
While the All Blacks won't be fielding their first choice side at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Mealamu said they still have good experience in the forward pack and dangerous backs out wide. But he also acknowledged that the Springboks on their own soil would be big challenge, especially with players who didn't make the trip to Australia and New Zealand last month back in the frame.
"Whenever we play the South Africans at home, it's always a huge contest for us," he said. "I've never seen a Springbok A or B side, it's always a Springbok side. We've definitely got our work cut out over there."
Despite the absentees, Mealamu was confident that those called up would be able to step up. "If we head in there with the right game plan and we're clear in what we're going to do, I'm sure those guys are going to step up and do a good job for us."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September