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All Blacks appeal Mealamu ban

New Zealand on Wednesday confirmed they will fight "to the death" against the four-week ban handed down to hooker Keven Mealamu for an apparent headbutt on England's Lewis Moody.

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen confirmed the appeal will be lodged and possibly heard by an International Rugby Board (IRB) panel on Friday.

The IRB on Tuesday night found Mealamu guilty of headbutting Moody in the All Blacks' 26-16 win at Twickenham last Saturday, but was spared an eight-week suspension due to his "exemplary disciplinary record" in 82 Tests for the All Blacks.

Hansen, who formed part of Mealamu's defence team during last night's two-hour hearing, said: "We're defending a guy who's character has been questioned and it shouldn't be.

"He's a one-off special person. He hasn't got a dirty bone in his body.

"He's not a dirty player, he never has been. This is a case we'll go to the death on."

Hansen revealed Mealamu's ban had affected morale in the All Blacks' camp.

"The guys were gutted because he can't play and more importantly they were gutted for Kevvy because of the man he is," he added on www.allblacks.com.

"Everyone knows it's not in his nature to do that and everyone knows if Kevvy says he didn't do it, he didn't do it."

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