Mealamu ban halved
Keven Mealamu had his four-week ban for striking an opponent with his head reduced to two weeks on appeal at a hearing on Friday.
Last Updated: 12/11/10 8:57pm
Keven Mealamu had his four-week ban for striking an opponent with his head reduced to two weeks on appeal at a hearing in Edinburgh on Friday.
The New Zealand hooker was cited last Sunday for an apparent headbutt on Lewis Moody during the All Blacks' 26-16 victory over England at Twickenham the day before.
Mealamu was subsequently suspended but with New Zealand appealing the decision, head coach Graham Henry named him in his starting XV for Saturday's match with Scotland.
Although an International Rugby Board appeal committee chaired by South Africa's Peter Ingwersen determined the incident was not intentional, Mealamu will still miss both this week's game and next week's against Ireland.
He is permitted to return to action on Monday, November 22 and can therefore face Wales in Cardiff six days later.
The uncapped Hikawera Elliot will line up against Scotland.
Television footage of the incident showed Mealamu grabbing Moody by the jersey and then diving forward, making contact with the back of the England captain's head.
However, the All Blacks issued a vigorous defence of the hooker's character, and partially succeeded in their appeal.
A statement from the independent IRB appeal committee read: "Although they upheld the original decision that there had been an act of foul play, having had the opportunity to review the video footage, the appeal committee concluded that the act was not intentional and that it merited a lower end entry point in the IRB list of sanctions, namely four weeks.
"In view of the compelling mitigating factors and the absence of aggravating factors, this was reduced to two weeks, meaning that Mr Mealamu is free to resume playing on Monday, November 22, 2010."
Mealamu expressed his relief at the outcome of the appeal which means he will now get another chance to play on New Zealand's tour of Europe.
"For me there's a lot of relief. It's been a tough week having something like this hang over my head," he said. "I've never, ever played the game to ever hurt anyone.
"To finally get this come through to say the way I did things was pretty reckless is a lot better than saying I intentionally tried to headbutt someone.
"I feel a lot better and I'll take a lot more care the next time I do a clean-out like that again."