Friday 19 January 2018

Mealamu to miss All Blacks' clash with Irish despite having ban reduced

Matt McGeehan

New Zealand will enter the second match of their Autumn Grand Slam quest with Scotland today without Keven Mealamu after the hooker's appeal against his four-week ban was only partially successful.

Mealamu had a month-long ban for an apparent headbutt to England captain Lewis Moody reduced to two weeks after an International Rugby Board appeal committee adjudged the incident to be foul play, but not intentional.

Mealamu will therefore miss the Murrayfield match and next week's meeting with Ireland, but will be permitted to return for the November 28 meeting with Wales in Cardiff.

The 82-Test veteran had been named by head coach Graham Henry in the All Blacks' starting line-up, but now his place goes to the uncapped Hikawera Elliot.

It means New Zealand have made five changes to their starting XV from last weekend's match with England, which they won 26-16.

Captain Richie McCaw and full-back Mils Muliaina retain their places and will both earn their 92nd caps at Murrayfield, equalling Sean Fitzpatrick's All Blacks record.


McCaw and Muliaina, who first played against each other at underage level in 1997, could jointly break the record in Dublin next weekend, but first the focus is on Scotland.

McCaw made his All Blacks debut in 2001 and is renowned as the greatest openside flanker on the planet, and Muliaina is a top-class full-back.

New Zealand are determined to deliver today after defeat in Hong Kong to Australia ended a run of 15 straight Test successes before the winning feeling returned at Twickenham last weekend.

Conrad Smith, one of the five changes after coming in as centre in place of Ma'a Nonu, is excited ahead of the clash.

"Everyone's pretty keen to perform and that usually takes care of itself," said Smith.

In 105 years, the All Blacks have never lost to Scotland, winning on 25 occasions and drawing twice, the last time being 27 years ago.

Henry has opted for continuity. Jimmy Cowan returns at scrum-half, Liam Messam, who made his debut against Scotland two years ago, has been named at flanker, Smith comes in at centre and Isaia Toeava comes on to the right wing.

Scotland -- H Southwell; R Lamont , M Evans, G Morrison, S Lamont; D Parks, M Blair (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray, R Gray, J Hamilton, K Brown, R Vernon, J Barclay. Reps: S Lawson, A Dickinson, N Hines, R Rennie, R Lawson, R Jackson, N Walker.

New Zealand -- M Muliaina; I Toeava, C Smith, S B Williams, H Gear; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, K Mealamu or H Elliot, O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock, L Messam, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Reps: A Hore, J Afoa, A Boric, D Braid, A Ellis, S Donald, M Nonu.

Ref -- D Pearson (England).

Scotland v New Zealand,

Live, BBC2, 5.15

Irish Independent

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