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Mealamu Looking Forward To Resuming City-Country Rivalry

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland, March 5 NZPA - All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu can't wait to resume one of New Zealand rugby's great domestic rivalries.

Mealamu will lead the Blues out for their Super 14 clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch tomorrow night and says the edge between sides based in Auckland and Canterbury remains palpable.

"It's city-country, two different islands," he said.

"It's definitely still there and it's good for rugby. You live in the same country, but there's still that rivalry."

The Blues and the Crusaders are the only New Zealand franchises to have won Super rugby titles, although the southerners are well ahead on that score with seven championships to three.

They are split 8-8 in all matches between them, and 1-1 in finals they have contested against each other.

The Blues' last Super rugby title in 2003 came at the expense of the Crusaders, with Mealamu being part of the 21-17 victory at Eden Park.

The teams also head to AMI Stadium will similar 2-1 win-loss records so far this season, although the Crusaders' extra bonus point puts them ahead on the table.

Both are backing up from last-up victories, with the Blues coming away with maximum profit against the Reds last Saturday.

On a wet Brisbane night, Mealamu was in the thick of the action, as the visitors fought back from early 7-0 deficit, courtesy of gift touchdown for Queensland skipper Will Genia, to grab a four-try 27-18 result.

"Sometimes when you have something like that happen in the first couple of minutes, it's a real wake up call," he said of Genia's intercept try.

"It definitely switched the boys on and I think we had a real belief in our team that we could do it. It was really nice to see it come together."

Mealamu, who at Ballymore was making a record-breaking 98th appearance for the Blues, led many of the charges during the exchanges among the forwards.

"In those conditions, you try to play things a bit tighter and there was a real focus on looking after the ball," he said.

"But in order to play well against a clinical side like the Crusaders, you have to do everything even better. It will be a big contest up front and that's what us tighties look forward to."

Mealamu will be part of an all All Black front row in the Blues' run-on side, along with John Afoa and Tony Woodcock, who has been restored to the No 1 jersey after coming off the bench against the Reds.

"We know Woody's world class and it's awesome to have him back," Mealamu said.

"I know he wouldn't have been happy to sit on the bench last week. It burns a bit of fire inside and he'll be ready come Saturday."

The Crusaders will have All Black captain Richie McCaw back in their starting 15, after the flanker made his first appearance of the season off the bench in the 35-6 win over the Sharks last weekend.

One of the feature match-ups will at first five-eighth, with former Crusader Stephen Brett going head-to-head with Dan Carter, the man whose shadow he moved out of with his off-season shift up north.

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