Liam Messam was back on the Hamilton rubbish run yesterday as news emerged he has been put on standby for the All Blacks. It seems he is not on the scrapheap just yet.
Chiefs loose forward and co-captain Messam was left out of the original 35-player All Black training squad for the Ireland tests, and, having been left out of the World Cup squad, he must have wondered if he would get another chance to add to his nine caps.
Victor Vito's medial ligament knee strain suffered in the first test at Eden Park on Saturday has provided a glimmer of an opportunity. Another injury among the loose forwards and Messam will be officially added to the squad. As it is, he will train with the All Blacks in Hamilton next week ahead of the third test at Waikato Stadium regardless.
Crusaders 21-year-old Luke Whitelock trained with the All Blacks in bitterly cold conditions at the Linwood Rugby Club in Christchurch yesterday, but it seems he and Hurricane Brad Shields, another inclusion in the training squad, remain behind 28-year-old Messam in the All Black pecking order.
Coach Steve Hansen confirmed Highlanders loose forward Adam Thomson would take Vito's position on the side of the scrum for Saturday's test in Christchurch, with the uncapped Sam Cane brought on to the reserves bench.
"We said right at the beginning that we knew as much as we needed to about Liam and there was no point in bringing him into the camp," Hansen said of the reasoning behind putting Messam on standby. "We wanted to learn about Luke and young Brad Shields because we didn't know anything about them and both are quality young men.
"We also said we would bring people in outside of that 35. Liam has had a very good season. He's been very consistent. He deserves his opportunity if he gets one."
For his part, Vito was attempting to put his disappointment at being ruled out of the game for up to five weeks to one side for the good of the team.
"I can't lie, it's pretty gutting but at the end of the day I can only take hold of the controllables and that's look after my recovery and have a really good attitude about doing what I can to get back as soon as and just help the team where I can," he said.
Vito, looking to make the blindside flanker position his own in the absence of Jerome Kaino, left the Eden Park field with blood streaming from his head after a collision with Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll.
It was after his head had been attended to that the extent of his knee injury became known.
"The blood was a good excuse to come off but they reassessed and saw that my knee wasn't quite right either so it was probably the right call to stay off the field, and especially with the results that have come out."
On the day it emerged Messam was still in the All Black frame he was up early for a Crossfit gym session and a run with his mates on the rubbish round, something he occasionally does for fitness. "Now it's time to make Hamilton beautiful and get on that rubbish truck," he tweeted merrily.
On the hunt for black bin bags, the sniff of a black jersey would have put an extra spring in his step.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick