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All Blacks braced for fierce Pumas pack


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

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
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NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
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