Liam Messam finally proves himself to Hansen
Mon, 06 Aug 2012 9:56a.m.
By Daniel Gilhooly
Just four of the champion Chiefs have made the All Blacks cut although one of them will feel more satisfaction than most.
Liam Messam has come of age as an international loose forward this year if the words of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Chiefs mentor Dave Rennie are any guide.
Messam has struggled for several seasons to move beyond fringe option status for the New Zealand selectors.
However, his inclusion in the 28-man squad for the Rugby Championship reflects his form. It has been compelling in leading the Chiefs to their maiden Super Rugby title and during the third Test against Ireland in June at his favoured Waikato Stadium when brought in to cover injuries.
"His form in that Irish Test was outstanding," Hansen said.
"He provided exactly what he was looking for, what we wanted, and he's continued to do that for the Chiefs."
Messam was man of the match in the 37-6 pounding of the Sharks, producing a trademark mix of intensity at the tackle combined with uncanny attacking ability.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie espoused the development of the increasingly physical forward.
"Liam's highlighted the fact that what you need (at number) six is some intensity. He brings that defensively and with ball in hand," Rennie said.
"He's grown another leg this year, I've been really impressed with the man. He's got a harder edge about him."
The other Chiefs promoted to international ranks were lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Sam Cane and first five-eighth Aaron Crude.
Another, inside centre Sonny Bill Williams is sure to appear in the first two tests against Australia after being named as a standby training option.
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow missed out to Piri Weepu and Aaron Smith, but Hansen said the lively Chiefs No.9 shaped as a logical member of the end-of-year tour squad.
Meanwhile, Rennie reserved his most glowing praise for Messam's Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke.
The big lock played for 80 minutes despite suffering medial ligament damage to his knee which would rule most recipients up to two months on the sideline.
"You want players who can play with small hurts and get through games," Rennie said.
"Craig showed that today. He shouldn't have even stripped but we got 80 minutes out of him. That shows the courage of the man."
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