Mealamu stays in Black and Blue
Veteran All Black hooker Keven Mealamu has re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Blues.
Veteran All Black hooker Keven Mealamu has re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and the Blues.
34-year-old Mealamu has so far played 105 Tests for the All Blacks and is New Zealand's most-capped Super Rugby player with more than 150 games.
His contract has been extended initially through to the end of 2014, with provision for the NZRU and Mealamu to agree to add another year to the deal, to take him through to the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Mealamu said the decision to re-sign with the NZRU was an easy one.
"I love New Zealand - this is my family's home. It's a real honour to play rugby for my country, the Blues and Auckland so I am delighted to carry on playing my rugby here.
"I am also very excited at the prospect of playing for Auckland this week in the ITM Cup match against 'The Steamers'. Auckland has fully supported me throughout my career and I am keen to give something back to my province."
All Black head coach Steve Hansen has welcomed the re-signing: "Keven has been a massive part of what the All Blacks have achieved in recent years. He has been a valued leader for a number of years now and has a large part to play in the off-field leadership of the team.
“Also, his experience has been invaluable in recent times in mentoring Dane Coles and the other young hookers. Having that experience available to us is hugely positive for the future and having him re-sign will allow that to continue."
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said: "Keven is one of this city's - in fact, this country's - finest rugby ambassadors. He represents everything that is great about the game - loyalty, excellence, integrity and leadership. Having played more than 100 games for the Blues shows how much Keven means to us."
NZRU CEO Steve Tew said: "Keven is one of the gentlemen of our game, one of the most capped All Blacks and holds the record for Super Rugby appearances - he has done so much for rugby in New Zealand. We are delighted that he has recommitted to New Zealand rugby."
Now into his 14th season as a professional rugby player, Tokoroa-born Mealamu was originally a loose forward, playing as a flank in the Under-16s in 1995, before being encouraged to switch to hooker. He quickly adapted to the front row and the core essentials of a modern hooker: as a solid scrummager and accurate line-out thrower.
But he always retained many of the instincts of a loose forward, with his mobility and skills in the open, his safe tackling and a try-scoring ability. Mealamu was only 20 when he first appeared for Auckland at provincial level and made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in 2000.
He made his All Black debut in 2002 against Wales alongside his good friend and newest All Black centurion Tony Woodcock. In 2011 he surpassed Sean Fitzpatrick as the All Blacks' most-capped hooker and in 2012 he played his 100th Test for the All Blacks.
Mealamu is the latest in a growing list of current and former All Blacks who have recommitted to New Zealand rugby for the next few seasons.
The list of players includes: outside back Ben Smith (2017), hooker Dane Coles (2016), captain Richie McCaw and fellow loose forwards Liam Messam, Sam Cane and Steven Luatua, props Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett and Ben Afeaki, locks Brodie Retallick and Jeremy Thrush, scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow, flyhalves Daniel Carter and Colin Slade, and outside backs Francis Saili and Charles Piutau (all signed to 2015); the All Blacks most capped prop Tony Woodcock and fellow props Owen Franks and Charlie Faumuina, hookers Hikawera Elliot and Corey Flynn, lock Luke Romano, loose forwards Victor Vito and Matt Todd, scrumhalves Piri Weepu, Andy Ellis and Aaron Smith, flyhalves Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett, centre Conrad Smith and outside backs Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Zac Guildford (all through to 2014).