WELLINGTON - Veteran All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu has committed to New Zealand rugby for a further year as he seeks to extend his career to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Mealamu, 34, has made it a public goal to compete at the tournament, although the deal unveiled on Thursday won't yet take him that far.
His contract has been extended through to the end of 2014, with provision for the New Zealand Rugby Union and Mealamu to agree to add another year.
New Zealand's first choice hooker in the victorious 2011 World Cup campaign, Mealamu has a fight on his hands to keep his Test status. He is one of three hookers employed by Hansen this year in the three-Test clean sweep of France and twin Bledisloe Cup wins over Australia.
However, 105-Test veteran Mealamu made just three reserve bench appearances while three starting berths were handed to 27-year-old Dane Coles and two to 34-year-old Andrew Hore. Hore is yet to sign a New Zealand contract beyond this year.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen lauded Mealamu's achievements as a player and says his value as an off-field leader has increased.
"His experience has been invaluable in recent times in mentoring Dane Coles and the other young hookers. Having that experience available to us is hugely positive for the future and having him re-sign will allow that to continue," Hansen said.