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All Blacks braced for fierce Pumas pack

Date

Chris Barclay in Buenos Aires

New Zealand's Kevin Mealamu (c) celebrates with captain Richie McCaw against South Africa.

New Zealand's Kevin Mealamu (c) celebrates with captain Richie McCaw against South Africa. Photo: Getty Images

The All Blacks pack have brought their 'A' game to Argentina, and in Keven Mealamu's estimation it will not be sufficient to quell a Los Pumas pack notorious for upping the ante before a fervent soccer-style home crowd.

Mealamu is braced for a typically fierce forward battle at La Plata on Sunday (AEST) and although New Zealand arrived in Buenos Aires on a 14-test winning streak, there are concerns about the quality of their performances in the inaugural Rugby Championship.

Protect their unbeaten record against their hosts and the All Blacks return home via Johannesburg with another trophy to display at NZRU headquarters, yet despite successfully quelling Los Pumas' resistance in last year's World Cup quarterfinal, and again in Wellington on September 8 the 97-test hooker knows they will be a tougher proposition on home soil.

Mealamu was among the established squad members given the night off when the All Blacks last played at Buenos Aires en route from Europe in 2006 - a 25-19 victory that closed with Los Pumas pressing for a historic converted try at Velez Sarsfield Stadium.

"I can remember the game quite vividly, hearing the chanting of the crowd was amazing," Mealamu recalled.

"In Argentina it's like they grow another leg, they're so much more confident at home and their passion goes to another level when they're playing on front of their own people. I remember seeing that intensity for pretty much the whole game."

The pressure ramped up for the current touring squad today when they trained for the first time - a schedule that must address a lack of fluidity in their attack and an inability to consistently dominate the forward exchanges.

Scrummaging, lineout and clean outs and protecting halfbacks Piri Weepu and Aaron Smith are Mealamu's domain and he didn't mince words when appraising the eight's work in their last two outings.

"To be blunt we've been adequate," he admitted, indicating there could be some willing sessions set down for the forwards this week.

"We've been able to provide a bit a ball but we haven't been where we want to be. As an All Black forward we want to come off the field feeling like we've done well and we've been able to get on top of opposition.

"It feels, maybe, in the last couple of weeks we haven't been able to do that."

Setting a solid platform for Weepu and Smith was a priority given the duo were hassled in Wellington and Dunedin.

"If they're having a great game it means we're doing our job well and if they're there or thereabouts it means we need to really step it up. We want them to be able to be in the game, and for them to be able to do that we need clean, fast front foot ball."

The longest serving forward behind skipper Richie McCaw, Mealamu said in mitigation the current forward pack was adjusting to life without the Brad Thorn's ballast and the defensive intensity offered by Jerome Kaino.

"They (Thorn and Kaino) left a big hole, they're guys with a lot of experience in the jersey and their presence on the field has been huge so it's a new pack finding its way at the moment."

And on game day it will also find itself in a cauldron-like cacophony foreign to their upbringing in New Zealand and unheard of in venues across Australia, South Africa and Europe.

The noise was occasionally deafening in Soweto when the All Blacks played at the 2010 FIFA World Cup headquaters two years ago, through the 55,000 fans expected to cram Estadio Ciudad de La Plata will take the decibel level to new heights.

"We're going to have to try and deal with that, we're not used with that sort of noise in the stadiums back home," Mealamu said.

Giving them nothing to shout about would be a sound tactic then.

Fairfax NZ News

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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