Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Front row need to regain best form

Keven Mealamu's test career may be nearing the end.
Keven Mealamu's test career may be nearing the end.

Steve Hansen won't be worried ahead of the June series against England but will be keen to see some of his players particularly his front row step up in the next few weeks.

If you look at what might be the starting All Black pack for the first test at Eden Park, you would say there's a lot of class, a lot of talent, but not that much form at the moment.

Jerome Kaino has impressed me since he came back he's played really well - but I thought he had a poor night against the Sharks. He was definitely the third man of the loose trio.

I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was just a bad night.

If Kieran Read is fit, I'd be confident he can come back and play well, as can Richie McCaw, as we all know. Liam Messam is another who has being going OK without quite being at his best.

I'd back all those four to come good for the All Blacks. But their form isn't collectively there.

Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick have been playing well, so it would be a case of carrying on with them as they are.

But for that back five to deliver, they need the front row to be setting the platform and who, of the men at the All Black training camp, has been playing well?

The Franks boys have been all right but not much more than that. Neither Tony Woodcock nor Charlie Faumuina have been doing too much certainly they haven't been setting the world on fire - and Wyatt Crockett is perhaps lucky Tim Perry was injured earlier in the year, otherwise he might not have had much of an opportunity.

None of them are in great form or even particularly good form. But again, there is experience and talent there to be confident they will deliver.

The position of hooker, though, is different. Age catches up with everyone and I feel it has with Keven Mealamu.

Lovely man, great All Black ... but I think the time has come for him to hand over the reins to Dane Coles.

The reality might be hitting Mealamu now. Not even his throwing is holding up that well and it might be best for the All Blacks to start developing not just one young hooker but two.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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