Winning the World Cup in France must take priority over the top All Blacks’ paticipation in next year’s Super 14 according to Keven Mealamu.
The Auckland Blues player will re-enter the Super 14 in round eight and despite being keen to help the franchise secure the trophy they last won in 2003, Mealamu said all of the 22-man conditioning squad were united by a common cause.
“Our number one goal is to bring the [World] Cup back, so weâ€™re all behind the concept 100 per cent,” he told allblacks.com.
â€œObviously the guys do want to play, itâ€™s what we do and love doing, but we have to step back and prepare the best we can.â€
Mealamu shrugged off criticism suggesting that the 22 players involved in the conditioning programme would have an unfair advantage when they returned to Super 14 duty.
â€œTo be honest, the players who have been playing in the All Blacks for a while have been disadvantaged because we miss a lot of conditioning the others do because weâ€™re in the UK [on the end-of-year tour].
â€œWhen we come back most of the guys are rushed back into the Super 14 camp and are not necessarily in the best condition. Players are always carrying niggling injuries and although the head is always wanting to play, sometimes the body is saying something different.â€
All Blacks selector, Sir Brian Lochore, said the conditioning programme would have a multitude of benefits for the players involved.
â€œI think itâ€™s absolutely essential really. For me itâ€™s as much about the mental advantage as the physical, and I think that advantage will be enormous.
â€œThe fact that theyâ€™ll start [their season] in the beginning of April means they can carry a high standard throughout the remainder of the competition and through to the World Cup.”