Keven Mealamu adjusting to life without Hore
Keven Mealamu is coming to terms with life without Andrew Hore.
For a decade they were international rugby's quintessential odd couple but now Hore has retired and returned to his Central Otago farm Mealamu has been forced to adjust to an All Blacks world without his old mate.
"It's pretty strange, yeah. We keep in touch and I think he's enjoying life on the farm," Mealamu noted at the All Blacks squad camp in Christchurch yesterday.
"It's pretty odd not to see his face and (hear) his cheeky remarks along the way."
What made the relationship so quirky was their conflicting backgrounds and outsiders struggled to understand why the two hookers were so tight.
Mealamu is a quietly-spoken Christian from South Auckland, an urban dweller who treasures his family time and rarely has a bad word to say about anyone.
To state Hore is a more earthy character would be an understatement; he enjoys a beer, possesses a dry sense of humour and can punctuate conversations with the type of blue language usually heard on a freezing works chain.
Unlike some players, who preferred to distance themselves from those who challenge for their position, Mealamu and Hore held no resentment when forced to swap the black No 2 jersey.
Mealamu, 35, said they still keep in touch.
"We usually have a text here and there, it's pretty random - every now and then."
He also visited his old mate before the season began and was impressed by his massive farm near Ranfurly.
"You understand why he loves it so much. I went down for his wedding and got a chance to look around. It's a beautiful place down there, an awesome place.
"I had a tour of the farm - up in the hills. You can understand why they are so proud of their place.
"I had never been down to that part of the country before so it was a real eye opener."
Hore, who played 83 tests before calling time on his All Blacks career after last year's northern tour, also critiques Mealamu's game from a distance. And he still doesn't mind poking the borax.
"He's always good like that - if I missed a tackle or something like that I will probably get a text," Mealamu laughed.
Hore will briefly come out of retirement to play for the Barbarians against England at Twickenham next month but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is now thinking of the future and has named Nathan Harris and Liam Coltman as potential back-ups for Dane Coles and Mealamu.
Harris and Coltman are also with the rest of the 35-man All Blacks wider training squad.
Hansen has already indicated he will select Coles and Mealamu in his 31-strong squad for next month's series against England. Blooding Harris and Coltman against England is likely to be too much of a risk but that attitude will change if the incumbents get injured.
Mealamu, a 110-test veteran who has been plagued by calf injuries in recent times, hopes to push through to next year's World Cup. He says the extra workload under the new scrum laws are putting more pressure on his lower legs.
"I'm in good nick at the moment. I have been able to get a good month's work under my belt. I'm tracking pretty good."