Ban nightmare for Mealamu
New Zealand's Keven Mealamu has described his two-match ban from rugby as the lowest point of his career.
Last Updated: 22/11/10 4:28pm
As he prepares to return to action against Wales on Saturday, New Zealand's Keven Mealamu has described his two-match ban from rugby as the lowest point of his career.
Mealamu was handed a four-game ban for striking England captain Lewis Moody with his head during the All Blacks' win at Twickenham just over two weeks ago.
That ban was reduced to two weeks on appeal, with the hearing ruling that while an act of foul play had been committed, Mealamu's actions had been unintentional.
Hikawera Elliott deputised for Mealamu, but the hooker is hoping to be back in the starting XV at the Millennium Stadium to win his 83rd cap for the All Blacks.
Graham Henry's men are chasing a third grand slam tour in six seasons, and that would be a good way for Mealamu to try and ease the pain of the last fortnight.
"I definitely think there is nothing worse than being suspended," said Mealamu. "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."
Mealamu is adamant the suspension will not see him change his game when it comes to the tackle area.
"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," he added. "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.
"I know (Fijian-born New Zealand wing) Joe Rokocoko was shouting his head off in his room watching it," he said of Friday's match. "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."