Self-belief key to rise of Messam
August 13, 2013
Liam Messam is now a regular starter for the All Blacks (Getty) © Getty Images
Liam Messam says the days of needing reassurance about his rugby-playing ability are long behind him.
The tough All Blacks forward is arguably the form player in New Zealand rugby heading into Saturday's first Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Sydney.
The 29-year-old was named Man of the Match when his Chiefs beat the Brumbies to win a second successive Super Rugby final 10 days ago. He was at least as impressive a week earlier, when the Crusaders were lowered in the semi-finals by a Chiefs side inspired by the collision intensity of their long-serving blindside.
That performance was labelled among the best of Messam's career by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who last year promoted the former fringe candidate to a regular starting berth. Such certainty has sent Messam's self-belief soaring.
"My motto is that I don't need people to convince me what I can and cannot do," he said. "I leave that up to me. I've learned that in the last couple of years."
Messam appreciated a week's break after the Chiefs triumph and says he is fizzing about rugby again ahead of his third start against the Wallabies. Hansen's axing of Victor Vito from the Rugby Championship indicates Messam's role is now unchallenged.
"Like most people, when you're here long enough you start to mature and take some responsibilities," Hansen said. "What the Chiefs are asking him to do is making him play more physically and he's just bringing that into this environment."
Messam's form will be important because of the uncertainty surrounding fellow-flanker Richie McCaw's condition. The All Blacks skipper has barely played since returning from a six-month break. However Messam is encouraged that McCaw recovered well from Friday's taxing warm-up match against provincial opponents.
"He was running around still full of beans after throwing his body on the line so he'll be good to go. He's always fit as a fiddle."
Australia's rugby fans will be asked to suggest law changes for trial use in the 2014 National Rugby Championship
Welsh rugby administrators are still hopeful their regional club sides will commit their future to the RaboDirect PRO12
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has confirmed his club will use a contentious 'blood-spinning' technique in a bid to hasten the return of defender Jan Vertonghen from injury
Borussia Dortmund advanced to the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday night as Group F winners after a dramatic 2-1 victory at pointless, 10-man Marseille
Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League in second place after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Napoli, as Borussia Dortmund secured a late victory away to Marseille
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
What is still at stake and all the Champions League group stage permutations, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City
Can you find the details for the England & Wales versus Scotland & Ireland match held at Twickenham in 1970 to mark the Centenary of the Rugby Football Union?
Phil Taylor is gunning for a 17th World Championship crown, but the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis will be out to deny him success at the Alexandra Palace
Deputy editor Laurence Edmondson looks at the reasons for and the flaws within the decision to offer double points at the season finale