New Zealand Rugby
Mealamu's World Cup ghosts buried
December 2, 2008

All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu believes that their Grand Slam tour has laid to rest the ghost of their World Cup disappointment in 2007.

New Zealand will find themselves up against France once again on the World Cup stage in 2011, but Mealamu is relishing the challenge of taking on the side that unceremoniously dumped them out of last season's tournament. "I think it will be awesome," he said. "It's good to have some good competition in the round robin. Hopefully, it prepares you for what lies ahead."

Mealamu is not wholly focused on revenge however. "That's buried now," he said of the 18-20 defeat at Millennium Stadium. "That's buried with the Grand Slam. It's been a hard 12 months and it's really nice to finish like this and put New Zealand rugby back up there again."

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said he expected the New Zealand-France fixture to open the 2011 tournament. "It's pretty exciting having France in the pool," he said. "I suppose that will be the opening match, so it will be pretty big for the country."

Smith was full of praise for the touring All Blacks' spirit during a season when the shadow of their World Cup capitulation loomed large. "We had to fight back from pretty tough positions in very passionate environments," he said. "Each team we played up there saw it as a chance to make history, so you are always battling against players who will throw everything into it."

During his time in the northern hemisphere Smith was heavily linked with the vacant coaching position at the Opsreys, but Smith said that the All Blacks players motivated his decision to stay. "I spoke to the players and I've got everything in this team that a head coach would want," he said. "I've got contribution and great players, so the people were definitely the reason I stayed."


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