Celebration and grief for upcoming test
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 6:40p.m.
By Jim Kayes
While the All Blacks aim to celebrate Keven Mealamu's 100th test cap against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday night the match will be tinged with sadness.
Mealamu is one of two changes coach Steve Hansen has made to his starting XV. The other change sees big Auckland prop Charlie Faumuina get his first start in his fourth test, while Brodie Retallick and Hosea Gear keep their places in the starting team and Owen Franks finds himself on the bench.
But it's the death of Hansen's father, Des, that's cast a pall over the build up to the match.
"The distraction of going to training Monday and Tuesday and today's been awesome, and I know that dad would kick my arse if I didn't do the job right, but it has been tough," says Hansen.
With the funeral next Tuesday, Hansen will be in Brisbane for Saturday's test.
"I was always going to Brisbane, it was never in doubt. He'd roll over and shoot me if I didn't go."
And the All Blacks are determined to win in Brisbane for Hansen and to mark Mealamu's milestone.
The hooker will be the third All Black to play 100 tests, joining Mils Muliaina and skipper Richie McCaw in the elite club.
"When I saw the way him and Mils approached their 100th game it was making sure we do the job. I'd like to make sure I can do the same thing as well," says Mealamu.
He's had to wrestle for every one of his 99 test caps, and since his debut in 2002 Andrew Hore has been the most persistent in challenging him for the hookers spot.
"We've had some real quality hookers come through and everyone has got special things that you learn a lot off,” says Mealamu.
And though he's 33, only injury will stop Mealamu adding to his test tally.
For now though, the All Blacks are concentrating on the here and now as they mix celebration with grief.
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