Liam Messam is in mix for Rio Olympics sevens

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2014
Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
LIAM MESSAM: ''My major goal is to get to the Olympics and I'll be 32 by then. So I know I need to do all the recovery work and I need to eat what I need to to be able to train every day.''

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Veteran loose forward Liam Messam has added his name to the list of All Blacks keen to contend for the first Olympic gold in rugby sevens.

Messam, who was a stalwart of Sir Gordon Tietjens' national sevens sides earlier in his career and won two Commonwealth Games gold medals,  said he wanted to be part of the historic 2016 Olympic campaign, if required.

The 30-year-old Chiefs co-captain and 32-test All Black was a special guest alongside Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams at the recent Powerade Breakthrough Academy in Auckland and offered a special insight to the 11 rising young New Zealand athletes hand-picked to attend the inaugural event.

In a special panel discussion, Messam was asked about what was most important to him to stay at the top of his sport.

''For me now I'm a little older it's all about recovery and what I eat. I wish I could be like Steve and eat a pie but I know for sure it would go straight to my hips,'' Messam said.

''My major goal is to get to the Olympics and I'll be 32 by then. So I know I need to do all the recovery work and I need to eat what I need to to be able to train every day.'' 

It's no surprise to hear Messam declaring his Olympic intent, given his background and earlier declarations that it's something that definitely interested him.

But it's notable that he's got the blinkers on this far out, with still a potentially historic World Cup campaign to come next year.

Messam's national team-mate Ben Smith - another whose skillset and athleticism is tailormade for the abbreviated game - said at the end of the All Blacks mini-camp in Auckland it was too far out for him to make a decision yet.

''I'm not too sure,'' said Smith, when asked whether he might declare for Rio.

''It's two years away. I'm just worrying about the [Rugby] Championship coming up. A lot of people will make decisions over the next few years. I really enjoyed my time with the sevens and I'm sure a lot of people will want to be part of it.'' 

It's likely Olympic squad members will have to miss all or part of the 2016 Super Rugby competition as well as the All Blacks' programme that year and NZRU boffins are still working through how they'll manage that contractually without impacting too greatly on franchises or the national team.

But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was important sevens was able to co-exist with the other top levels of the game that year.

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''The union has to put a process in place that supports the sevens and also doesn't undermine our XVs, because 2016 is going to be a big year for whoever's in the [All Blacks] as there could be a lot of changes.

''So you wouldn't want a whole lot of people going, but there's certainly room for some people to go and it's just about getting that balance right.''

- Sunday Star Times

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