Liam Messam earning big wraps from coach
Sun, 09 Sep 2012 6:38p.m.
By Jim Kayes
Last night’s All Blacks match was a difficult game in which to impress. But one man who did was on the field for just 37 minutes. Replacement flanker Liam Messam is earning big wraps from the coach.
Liam Messam's name is as good as written down on the team sheet to play South Africa, coach Steve Hansen making it clear who's the number one – number six.
“I think Liam's performance was pretty commanding, but in saying that I’m still happy with how Victor's going,” says Hansen. “He's a maturing player. He's getting better all the time and I'm happy with how both of them are going. But at the moment Liam's probably got the wood over him.”
“There's an edge in that jersey, especially at training,” says Messam. “All three of us are training hard for that one position, so it's healthy for me as an individual because I know I’ve got to be on my toes and play the best I can.”
While Messam had a commanding cameo, halves Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden took a while to settle behind a pack outplayed by the Pumas in the first-half.
“It was a tough night for everyone I think,” says Cruden. “We sorted of expected the weather to be like this but when you get out in the middle and it's blowing a gale it's pretty tough.”
“[He’s] harsh on himself I suppose,” says Hansen. “That's fair because he started off pretty average, but the pleasing thing was he grew and grew into the game. He's a young five-eight and it was really testing conditions for him and Aaron Smith, so both of them will get a lot out of that Test match.”
“Walking into the tunnel I was pretty disappointed with how I went,” says Cruden. “The boys will be satisfied with the win but know we've got a lot to work on.”
Catching the ball will help, with some of the All Blacks’ big-name players coughing it up.
“It was tricky,” says All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. “But we knew that before we went in there. Perhaps that's why it was a wee bit frustrating. We knew that was going to be the case and we didn't quite get it the way we wanted. I guess that's a good learning isn't it?”
“Our first-half I thought we tried to play way too much rugby for the conditions.”
They won't have that excuse next week as the All Blacks head to Dunedin to play South Africa under a roof.
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