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Mealamu ban reduced

New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu expressed relief after his four-week ban for striking an opponent with his head was halved following an appeal hearing in Edinburgh on Friday.

The 31-year-old was cited for an apparent headbutt on Lewis Moody during New Zealand's 26-16 victory over England at Twickenham last Saturday. An IRB Board appeal committee met in Edinburgh and determined the incident was not intentional, halving the ban and permitting Mealamu to return to action on Monday, November 22.

"For me there's a lot of relief. It's been a tough week having something like this hang over my head," said Mealamu.

"I've never, ever played the game to ever hurt anyone. To finally get this come through to say the way I did things was pretty reckless is a lot better than saying I intentionally tried to headbutt someone. I feel a lot better and I'll take a lot more care the next time I do a clean-out like that again."

Mealamu, who has won 82 caps, will be permitted to return for the November 27 meeting with Wales in Cardiff.

Television footage of the incident showed Mealamu grabbing Moody by the jersey and then diving forward, making contact with the back of the England captain's head.

John West, the IRB's citing commissioner, charged Mealamu with contravening Law 10.4 (a), "striking with the head" and a hearing in Glasgow on Tuesday night issued the suspension, meaning Mealamu was ruled out of the remainder of the northern hemisphere tour.

However, the All Blacks issued a staunch defence of the hooker's character and partially succeeded in their appeal.

A statement following the hearing read: "Although they upheld the original decision that there had been an act of foul play, having had the opportunity to review the video footage, the appeal committee concluded that the act was not intentional and that it merited a lower end entry point in the IRB list of sanctions, namely four weeks.

"In view of the compelling mitigating factors and the absence of aggravating factors, this was reduced to two weeks meaning that Mr Mealamu is free to resume playing on Monday, November 22, 2010."


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