Messam looking to impose force on French

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2013
Liam Messam
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
POWER: Liam Messam in action during the first test against France.

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Liam Messam doesn't want to be judged by the flashy stuff.

The 29-year-old is driven by a powerful force and said yesterday it's physicality not flair that he wants to impose on France during the second test in Christchurch.

"My number one thing would be physicality," Messam said when asked how he measures his performance. "With and without the ball, that's what I rate myself on after every test match, whether I was physical, in their face, just having that physical edge about myself and people knowing I've been in the game with them."

Which isn't a bad summary of why Messam has become one of the first names on coach Steve Hansen's team sheet.

There are often divided opinions of the Chiefs loose forwards efforts following test matches and so it was after the first test in Auckland where he spent most of the match wrestling with big French forwards.

Some pundits thought Messam had a blinder, others thought he was too quiet and that Victor Vito or Steven Luatua would be a better bet.

The former sevens star smiles at the suggestion he is only judged as having a good game if he's done something flashy with ball in hand.

"People don't really understand the position specifics for the All Blacks, but they see what that player can do [at Super Rugby level]," he said. "For me it's about keeping my head down and doing what the coaches want and the game plan. The only people you want to make happy are the coaches.

"If I get one carry or ten carries [doesn't matter]. I do love running with the ball, but I also love putting myself out there physically as well."

The truth is Messam has been a ready-made replacement for Jerome Kaino, who headed overseas after the 2011 World Cup.

With No 8 Kieran Read such a dominant ball carrier, and openside Sam Cane a breakdown and support play specialist, Messam fills in the gaps.

He is an all energy presence, often the player disrupting, scragging and counter at the breakdown, cover tackling, rushing up to put pressure on loose ball and filling in as halfback or first receiver for absent backs.

So important are the sum of those parts, that Messam often plays the full 80 minutes both for the Chiefs and All Blacks.

He has not missed a minute of the Chiefs 13 matches this season and played 11 of the All Blacks 14 tests last season, starting 10 and completing a full match in five.

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Messam says he's driven by the fact that it took him so long to gain a foot hold, just 11 tests in four seasons before Kaino's departure.

"That's one of my motivations I guess, the pain I've been through. Every time I play in the jersey I don't want it to be the last, that drives me and give me the hunger to keep doing what I'm doing."

Last year he says he became comfortable for the first time with the pace and intensity of test rugby. Now he wants to take his game to another level and says he is relishing the chance to up the tempo against France in Christchurch tomorrow night.

- The Dominion Post

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