Messam takes no pleasure in 'brothers' bad luck
If Liam Messam was the ruthless type he'd be eyeing Saturday's Bledisloe rematch against the Wallabies with the cold-hearted attitude of an assassin.
This is his chance to remind his coaches of the qualities he brings to the All Black blindside flank - his opportunity to make a move in his compelling No 6 rivalry with the crocked Jerome Kaino.
But it turns out Messam doesn't have a ruthless streak. Especially when it concerns the fortunes of his long-time, close friend Kaino who just happens to have returned from Japan and regained the blindside spot he vacated after the 2011 World Cup triumph.
The two go way back, and in Messam's world that means you take no pleasure at the other bloke's misfortune.
Kaino injured his elbow in last Saturday's 12-12 draw in the rain in Sydney, and is out for probably the rest of the Rugby Championship. At least a month.
Luckily, Messam is well rested.
He's had the last five weeks in a mini-reconditioning programme and says he's ''chomping at the bit'' to get back on the field and do what he does best.
''It's been pretty tough, especially watching the boys do battle over in Aussie and not being out on that field with them,'' he said.
''I just had to trust the plan that the medicos and coaching staff had for me. It's been a blessing in disguise, and I feel really refreshed and ready to go.''
That his opportunity has come at Kaino's expense is bittersweet, to say the least.
''It's been tough. Any injury is tough on anyone, and this week it's making sure I get around him, put my arm around him and be a brother first off and make sure he's all right coping with his injury.''
You suggest to the 30-year-old, with his 32 test caps spread over seven seasons, that perhaps it's time to mine his ruthless inner core, seize his opportunity and stake his claim in Kaino's absence.
Messam grins at the question.
''Hopefully the coaches already know what I offer. I don't have to go out there and do anything special. I'll just do my job and play the way I play.
''I feel for Jerome. He's one of my close mates and you never want to see anyone injured. I don't really have a ruthless streak inside of me like that -- just the ruthlessness that comes out in me when I get on the field.''
Coach Steve Hansen said he had no doubts Messam would deliver his usual quality when the All Blacks look to extend their 20-year win streak on Eden Park and tuck away the Bledisloe Cup for another year.
''We wanted him to freshen up, and we're very thankful we've done that,'' said Hansen of his decision to deliberately put Messam on ice at the end of the Super Rugby campaign.
''He'd had a huge workload for the Chiefs and now we've lost Jerome, we're lucky we've got two quality players.''
Messam is more than ready.
''I'm chomping at the bit,'' he said. ''I've had to pull the reins back a bit this week, 'cause it's not game day till Saturday. I'm really looking forward to getting back out on the footy field and doing what I love to do.
''I'm not going to lie, the lungs are probably going to be hissing at me the first 20 minutes. I just hope I've done enough work off the field to make sure I can play through that.''
In terms of the ''spark'' expected to be provided by the new faces for an All Blacks outfit a long, long way from their best last week, Messam said it became clear when preparations started again on Monday that there would be no ignition needed.
''The boys have bounced back pretty well from a frustrating game on Saturday. It's been a good week so far, and the three of us don't have to do anything special, just our job.
''Obviously it was a tough old night at the office for both teams, and their pack really stepped up. We as forwards need to make sure we set that platform for our backs to fire.''
It's a big week for Messam, but if he has his way there will be a few more to come.
He has the World Cup and Olympic Games in his sights, and that's why the strategic breaks are useful when he can get them.
''Guys like Richie get a six-month sabbatical; and I've had a five-week sabbatical. I think it's when you hit that good old age of 30 you need to start looking after your body a bit better.''
Messam expects his to be sore come Sunday. Bledisloe sore.
But it will be pain he's more than willing to live with.
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