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While most All Blacks harbour nothing but grim memories of last year's rugby World Cup semifinal exit against Australia in Sydney, prop Kees Meeuws can still reflect with some pride on an incident from that match bigger than any win or loss.



Meeuws still clearly recalls the collapsed scrum that came dangerously close to sentencing Wallabies opposite Ben Darwin to life without the use of his arms or legs.



While Darwin was forced to retire because of the neck injury he suffered that day, it could easily have been worse had Meeuws not reacted to the call of "neck, neck, neck" from Darwin as the scrum disintegrated.

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Meeuws pulled back, a move that subsequent medical examinations showed quite possibly saved Darwin from becoming a quadraplegic.



"It was one of the bittersweet moments of rugby," Meeuws told NZPA.



"The bitter part was that he had to finish his career but the sweet part was that something that I did helped save his life. He now has quality of life where he has use of all his limbs."



Damage to Darwin's spinal cord caused him to lose the feeling in his arms and legs for a short period on Telstra Stadium.



Darwin, who played 28 tests, has expressed his debt to Meeuws' actions several times publicly. The pair remain friends. When they last spoke, Darwin remained upbeat about his health and was enjoying life, Meeuws said.



"He's taken on a new role as a sports writer, he's happy and doing well," Meeuws said.



Australia's first-choice tighthead is now Darwin's old clubmate in Sydney Al Baxter, who Meeuws packed down against for just a couple of minutes in the World Cup semifinal.



"With each game he's grown and he's a world class player now," Meeuws said.



The All Blacks scrum has performed well this year and shapes as a possible area of advantage on Saturday.



Despite the extra focus on set pieces, Meeuws has still added to his world record tryscoring tally as a prop. His try against the Pacific Islanders last Saturday lifted the record to 10.



- NZPA