All Blacks await real test

KEVEN MEALAMU is under no illusions that the Tri-Nations series will present far greater challenges for New Zealand than they have encountered against either Ireland or Wales so far this month.

The hapless Irish self-destructed in New Plymouth and were never going to be a match for the All Blacks after having Jamie Heaslip sent off, ultimately crashing to a 66-28 defeat.

Warren Gatland's men at least made a contest of it for 50 minutes but ultimately went the same way after the All Blacks, inspired by a superb performance from Dan Carter, ran riot in the second half to win comfortably in Dunedin.

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While the All Blacks have been at their diplomatic best since their 42-9 victory at Carisbrook, the reality is the northern hemisphere teams are seen as an appetiser to the meatier challenge presented by Australia and South Africa over the coming months. "There's always a different style of rugby when you play the northern hemisphere teams," Mealamu said.

"You're probably a lot more familiar with the South African and Aussie teams and I suppose the pace will pick up again.

"It's always tough because they are two of the best teams in the world as well. Those Tri-Nations Tests will definitely be a lot harder for us."

The challenge for Wales in Hamilton is finding a way to match the All Blacks for 80 minutes.

But the Welsh players have been adamant fitness is not the issue, something reiterated by lock Bradley Davies.

"I'm not sure it's fitness, because we pride ourselves on our fitness," the Cardiff second-rower said. "I think momentum is key here. Once they get momentum, they are quite hard to claw back."