Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, November 27
Messam happy to be Mr Versatility
November 23, 2010
Messam is hoping for a chance to shine against Wales on Saturday © Getty Images
All Blacks forward Liam Messam has vowed to do all he can to break into their ultra-competitive back-row.
The powerful triumvirate of blindside Jerome Kaino, openside Richie McCaw and No.8 Kieran Read have dominated the international stage this year with Messam forced to play a supporting role alongside the likes of Victor Vito and Daniel Braid.
But the 26-year-old Messam, who joined the tour squad fresh from helping New Zealand retain the Commonwealth Games Sevens title, is determined to prove his worth by becoming an able deputy for any of his back row rivals.
"There's huge talent throughout the squad and particularly the back-row," he told ESPNscrum. "Jerome, Kieran and the skip [McCaw] have been playing some outstanding rugby this season. But it's just great just to be involved with this team and be part of the culture that has been created by the coaches."
Messam made his All Blacks debut at No.8 against Scotland two years ago but four of his six caps have come at blindside, with some suggesting his versatility has worked against him. But the Chiefs stalwart refuses to see it that way.
"I see it as a positive thing," he explained. "As far as I am concerned I am fortunate that I can cover all three. It's just up to me to go away and work hard, not just in one position but all three - blindside, openside and No.8 - and that's what I will be focusing on in the next few months and hopefully if a chance comes in one of those positions I will be ready. I want to be an option at all three positions so I'm going to work pretty hard to make that happen."
Messam watched from the sidelines as the All Blacks closed in on another Grand Slam tour with victory over Ireland last weekend but is hoping for another chance to impress against Wales on Saturday having made his only tour outing in the win against Scotland.
"It was a great performance from the lads and a little disappointing not to get any game time but it was an awesome game to part," he said. "It would have been nice to get out there but just watching the boys and how they performed was great. I'm an awesome spectator and just like any other big rugby fan. I was pretty happy with how things went against Scotland but there's still plenty of room for development and I've got plenty of learning to do to get my game up to Test level."
Messam also paid tribute to All Blacks boss Graham Henry as he closed on a century of Test wins with his 98th victory as a coach against the Irish in Dublin. "It's a massive achievement and for a coach to get there is unheard of," he said. "He is an awesome coach and gets the best out of the players and he always drives for more and that's probably the key thing for me - he is always pushing you to become a better player because he doesn't want you to sit there and be happy with where you are as a player. He is always trying to drive you on and get the best out of you."
The tourists' victory at Lansdowne was also a special one for McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina who became the All Blacks' most-capped players - an honour they are more than deserving of according to Messam.
"It is an awesome achievement for skip and Milsy and it was great to see them do it - especially Milsy as he is my captain at the Chiefs," he said. "It seems the older he gets the quicker he becomes and the better football he plays. For him to achieve that is really special and I'm really proud of him.
"And to be the most-capped All Black as well as the most-capped captain is certainly something special for Richie too. He is a top man and a great footballer and such a great influence on the team. And he's got this awesome mental toughness that enables him to perform week in and week out."
But the All Blacks are unlikely to dwell on those achievements to long with victory over Wales and another clean sweep through the UK and Ireland next on their agenda.
"We do take things a game at a time but we're aware of the bigger picture and how special the Grand Slam is," insisted Messam, who was coached by Wales boss Warren Gatland during his time at Waikato. "I'm hoping for some game time but as always I will just keep training hard and wait to see what happens.
"Not many teams achieve the Grand Slam and a few of the boys have got a couple already. Saturday will be a big game and the boys are looking forward to getting stuck in. We've had some good preparation and hoping it will show come Saturday."
Liam Messam was speaking to ESPNscrum.com on behalf of adidas - official partner of the All Blacks
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