Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Tight calf likely to rule Mealamu out of Wales test

All Black hooker Keven Mealamu has not given up on playing this weekend's test against Wales after he suffered another calf injury.

However, he may be defeated by time after leaving the Stadio Olimpico soon after halftime yesterday in the All Blacks' spotty 42-10 victory over Italy.

Calf injuries troubled Mealamu for large chunks of the Super rugby series.

"The calf tightened up just after halftime as I was coming out so I thought it was probably wise just to make sure I didn't do any damage to it," he said.

The 101-test hooker was optimistic he would be fit for selection but knew the next 48 hours would go a long way towards deciding his fate.

"I think I came off at the right time before anything became of it."

In the buildup to the test, the All Blacks had concentrated on their set pieces against an Italian side rated the No1 team in Europe in those areas.

"I think we had a couple in the second half where they were able to splice and get a few metres. We were prepared for that but had a couple of lapses and might have let ourselves down in a couple of scrums, but on our ball we were good."

Mealamu felt the new combinations and no rugby for a few weeks meant the All Blacks were a little rusty.

"But to be honest when you play against a side like this which has so much passion, it takes a little while to break them down, and if you look at the Scotland game it was the same thing as well. Just being prepared to work through the game and once we were able to get some dominance - and it's coming late in the second half - it's those sort of games."

The quarter periods either side of halftime were ineffective. It was only in the last 12 minutes when the All Blacks cracked on three tries that they were able to move away from Italy.

Mealamu thought more of that attrition rugby was headed their way against Wales and England. Italy had played more rugby than the tourists expected and that spirited effort had been a strong defensive test for the All Blacks.

When Cory Jane came on at fullback for the last 30 minutes he sparked some serious attack from which Julian Savea profited with two late tries.

Savea and Hosea Gear worked hard on the flanks but the pressure from the Italian defence held well until the late breaches. That, said Savea, was where the benefit of having some patience kicked in.

All Black coach Steve Hansen applauded Italy for their positive approach and was gratified the 70,000 crowd saw a better spectacle than the match between the sides in Milan three years ago.

- NZ Herald

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