Samoan heritage makes Apia Test special, Mealamu
Experienced All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu speaks for a growing core of players with Samoan rugby heritage when he talks about the significance of the Test match in Apia on Wednesday.
The 123–Test veteran said he never believed the opportunity would arise to play a Test in Apia.
"It's a pretty special moment for those of us who have Samoan heritage, and parents who are born and raised in Samoa. It will be a really proud moment for them to be able to see their sons go back to Samoa and have the opportunity to play in front of family that have never had the opportunity to see the All Blacks play," he said.
Mealamu said the only times he had been to Samoa was on holiday and to see family so it would be different to play in that environment.
His father would be his family's representative at the game, while other players with Samoan connections would also have family travelling to Apia for the Test.
"It's a pretty special moment for some of the boys and I think it is a pretty special moment for the All Blacks as well," he said.
Mealamu said because of his heritage he had always followed Samoa in his youth and while playing for them might have been a possibility, his desire had always been to be an All Black.
"We know it is going to be a cauldron when we walk into Apia Park but we're looking forward to it and we're really looking forward to playing in a stadium we haven't played in before, and to take All Black rugby there."
No.8 Kieran Read saw longer term benefits for the All Blacks from the Test match.
He said the disruption caused by the Hurricanes-Highlanders Super Rugby final had positives because several younger players coming into the set-up were laying a foundation that could have benefits for several years to come.
"It gives those guys experience of the environment, the pressures and the different things that come with it," he said.
"It's great to be going over to Samoa, and it is great to be kicking off this year. We've only got five games to invent some really crucial things in our game and how we want to play before we get to the World Cup.
"This is the start so it is a pretty important one for us. We'll be looking to go up there and play as well as we can. Obviously first Tests are always pretty difficult and bringing the new guys up to speed, we want to go up there and play as well as we can," he said.