Injury woes shrugged off ahead of Wales test

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 19/11/2012

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All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu and halfback Aaron Smith are optimistic they will be fit to play Wales this week.

Mealamu and Smith picked up injuries against Italy in their first hit-outs on the end-of-year tour after sitting out last week's win over Scotland. The veteran rake was thought to be the more seriously injured after he limped from the field with a calf complaint, straight after halftime in Rome.

Dane Coles came on and impressed in his second test. Mealamu realises the threat the rookie will soon pose and wants to retain his spot in Cardiff.

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

"I thought it was wise to make sure I didn't do any damage to it," he said of the calf.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen attempted to downplay the injury but said he wouldn't know Mealamu's availability until later today.

Smith also hobbled into the after-match interviews with his left knee heavily strapped, not surprisingly given the number of times he was barrelled at the back of a ruck by the brutal Italian forwards.

"The left knee is a bit sore.

"It got a bit of a bang," he said.

"I'll keep it on ice. The doc said it should be right."

Mealamu also revealed the Italians caught the All Blacks off guard with their willingness to use the ball, rather than keep it in tight and kick for territory.

"We probably didn't expect them to play as much as they did," he said. "It was good for us to come up against that form of attack. Looking ahead to Wales, they will probably look to use the width. They've got some good ball handlers."

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- The Dominion Post

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