ABs to make special Colin Meads tribute

Sir Colin Meads in front of the statue of himself in June in Te Kuiti. Photo: NZ Herald.
The All Blacks will pay tribute to Sir Colin Meads tomorrow night. Photo: NZ Herald.

The All Blacks will wear a special tribute to the late Sir Colin Meads on their jerseys tomorrow night - an extra emotional touchstone which increases the significance of the test against the Wallabies.

The tribute will be in the form of an embroidered number - the Herald understands it will be Meads' All Black number 583 - following the death of the former great in Te Kuiti last Sunday, a day after the All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies in Sydney.

Meads has always been a big part of the All Black legacy and the former lock's passing has been spoken about by the team during the week. Lock Sam Whitelock will formally present his No5 jersey to the Meads family after the match at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Steve Hansen's men will want to honour Meads' memory with a ruthless and accurate performance against the Wallabies. A victory will see them claim the Bledisloe Cup for another year - Australia last held it in 2003 - but the home side want a little more than that.

In Dane Coles' first test back following his concussion and in Ben Smith's final test before his sabbatical, the All Blacks want a complete 80-minute performance.

"He's been there - we've certainly touched on him throughout the week," skipper Kieran Read said of Meads' memory. "We're paying a great tribute to him on our jersey tomorrow night so the guys will certainly treasure that. It won't necessarily win us the test match - we have to do that ourselves."

The All Blacks will be expecting a backlash from an Australian team which will have no shortage of motivation themselves after the 54-34 thrashing at ANZ Stadium. They key for Hansen's men is to be direct and ruthless when they have the ball - a bit like Meads in his pomp - in order to recycle possession and give their strike weapons out wide a chance to run into space.

"The key from our point of view is to start again, to make sure we earn the right to do those little things that came off in weekend," Read said. "It's really simple stuff from our point of view - it's looking after the breakdown, making sure our ball carries are really strong. That allows us to get quick ball. It's the same for us every week but especially this week.

"We weren't happy with the last 30 minutes of last week. That was probably a great kick in the guts for us. We need to start this week on the right note. A big thing this week that we're playing for as well... with Colin and obviously the Bledisloe Cup is treasured from our point of view.

Asked today what made him think the Australians could provide a challenge when they were woeful defensively in the first half last weekend, Read replied: "You just have to look at the footage of the last 20 minutes of the game last week. We know how dangerous they can be. We slightly took our foot off the throat and if we're not there mentally they're a team who can do that. They're dangerous, they're hungry, they've certainly got a point to prove."

Any niggle from the visitors wouldn't be unexpected either. "It's been through our minds," Read said. "We've got to expect it. We'll adapt to whatever comes our way. If we can play our game, play it fair and clean and really hard then a lot of the extra stuff doesn't come into it."

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