Lions tour: Chiefs to learn from Maori and Crusaders mistakes

Liam Messam will back up for the Chiefs three days after playing for NZ Maori against the Lions.
HANNAH PETERS/ GETTY IMAGES

Liam Messam will back up for the Chiefs three days after playing for NZ Maori against the Lions.

Don't expect the Chiefs to repeat the New Zealand Maori mistakes. Triumph or not against the Lions, they will certainly have no 'what if' regrets.

So much of the Lions tour focus has already drifted to Saturday's first outing against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

For the Chiefs, though, the opening test series salvo is irrelevant. Tuesday night is all that matters.

Liam Messam puts in at Chiefs training two days after playing for NZ Maori against the Lions.
TOM LEE/FAIRFAX NZ

Liam Messam puts in at Chiefs training two days after playing for NZ Maori against the Lions.

Actions reflect attitude and that's exactly why Liam Messam, after being knocked around for 80 minutes and scoring the only Maori try two days ago in Rotorua, sets the tone by backing up again from the bench.

Battered and bruised inside and out after the 32-10 defeat, nothing was going to stop Messam pulling on the Chiefs jersey.

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"The body is a little sore as you'd expect but I'm looking forward to getting another opportunity to play against these guys," Messam said.

"I know out here on my home pitch the home fans will get me up and I'll be good to go. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play these guys and I'm lucky enough to get two cracks at them. "

Depleted, yes. Disheartened, no. Just as the Highlanders and Blues did, the Chiefs intend to make the most of this chance.

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Dave Rennie's men will follow a similar script. Unlike the Maori, crippled at the set piece but also dispatching virtually any form of counter attack, the Chiefs will have a crack.

While there is no Damian McKenzie or James Lowe, the back three of Shaun Stevenson, Toni Pulu and Solomon Alaimalo won't be hoofing the ball downfield too often with a fine night forecast. Catch their high balls, and the offloading game will be unleashed.

The absence of a lock and inclusion of tearaway flanker Mitchell Karpik on the bench is another pointer to the tempo the Chiefs intend to adopt.

Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes made it clear the locals won't die wondering. There's no guarantees that approach will be enough to down the grafting tourists but it should get them a lot closer than the Maori managed.

"We've prepared ourselves for the strengths they've got but we intend to play as well," Barnes said, acknowledging the set piece had received extra attention. "We won't be sitting around waiting for what they've got to do."

The Lions aren't Wales, but the Chiefs also have history of ruining Warren Gatland's Hamilton homecomings.

"You've got to realise when you pick a team for a competition like we play in you're only as good as the people right down the bottom," Barnes said. "I've got absolute faith in everyone of those guys to do a job.

"I hope you guys get to see a group of people play who you haven't seen much of and I'm pretty excited they've got this opportunity."

Don't change who you are. That's the lessons from the tour thus far. Credit to the Lions for their accuracy in certain areas but the Crusaders and Maori went away from their strengths and were duly strangled out of the game.

Against the Lions' mid-week team, the Highlanders and Blues largely played as they had all year. They backed their skills; they gave the ball air. And for both, it eventually paid off.

Now it's the Chiefs turn.

"Watching those two games those guys really threw everything at them and chanced their arm a bit," Messam said.

"With the Maori we did the best we could with the time we had. We only had a couple of trainings together. I know the boys here are very well prepared. We've been together the whole season so we've got a few more tools up or sleeve. Our boys are really up for it. I was really impressed with the training run yesterday just watching the attitude and effort.

"The Lions worked to their strengths; their set piece, their scrummaging and lineout mauls and I know the All Blacks will definitely be looking at that. Same here with the Chiefs we've got to make sure we don't give these guys the opportunity to do that."

 - Stuff

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