IRB insist All Blacks Mealamu selection does not break their regulations
THE International Rugby Board (IRB) maintain New Zealand have not broken regulations by selecting hooker Keven Mealamu to face Scotland tomorrow, despite his inclusion contravening IRB rules.
Mealamu was suspended for four weeks for allegedly head-butting England captain Lewis Moody during last weekend's 26-16 victory in Twickenham, but the All Blacks have vowed to fight the suspension "to the death" at today's IRB appeal hearing. Coach Graham Henry selected the 31-year-old at hooker alongside the uncapped Hika Elliot.
New Zealand would appear to be in breach of IRB regulation 17.19.3, which states that: "A suspended person or player who elects to appeal may not take part or be selected for any further match until his case has been dealt with by an Appeal Committee or Appeal Officer."
However, an IRB spokesman said naming Mealamu was the "pragmatic approach" and permissible in the circumstances. "It would appear to be a pragmatic approach as the appeal is on the eve of the match and the team has to be announced 48 hours beforehand," he said.
"If his appeal is wholly successful then he could be available for selection and playing. New Zealand have announced the starting line-up scenario should the player be successful or unsuccessful in his appeal."
The All Blacks have adopted a bullish stance on the Mealamu incident amid accusations of hypocrisy after South Africa lock Bakkies Botha was banned for nine weeks in July for a head-butt on Kiwi Jimmy Cowan during the Tri-Nations.
Meanwhile, on the eve of his 65th cap, against Samoa, Ireland second-row Donncha O'Callaghan has signed an international contract that will keep him with Munster until 2014.
The 31-year-old would have been one of a number of Ireland players on the shopping-lists of wealthy French and England clubs, but seems certain to complete his professional career with Munster, where he made the first of 169 appearances in 1998.
Ireland also confirmed their replacements bench for the Samoa tie last night, with Keith Earls, Stephen Ferris and Jonathan Sexton all included.
The IRFU's free train offers from Cork, Limerick, Galway and Belfast for this weekend's Samoa game are fully subscribed, but the union say clubs and schools can still avail of bus travel offers by contacting head office at 01-6473800.