Rugby: Messam joins squad on US artifical turf

By Campbell Burnes

Liam Messam is back for his 23rd Sevens.  Picture / Ben Fraser
Liam Messam is back for his 23rd Sevens. Picture / Ben Fraser

The All Blacks Sevens welcome back Liam Messam and are preparing for the novelty of playing on an artificial turf in Las Vegas for this weekend's World Series tournament.

New Zealand are tied at the top of the standings, on 69 points, with Fiji and South Africa and coach Gordon Tietjens will seek a repeat of the Wellington and Sydney events, in which they were victorious, and almost unrecognisable from the injury-hit outfit that struggled in the opening two events in December.

All Blacks loose forward Liam Messam, one of a trio to show off his dance moves at a local school during the week, returns to the sevens ranks for his 23rd tournament, and his first since the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He was carrying an injury last month upon his return from a short stint in Japan, so sat out Wellington and Sydney.

Missing out from the squad of 14 on tour are the Counties Manukau duo of Sherwin Stowers and Sonny Bill Williams. The latter is being rested, which seems strange when you think he would need as much sevens game time as possible heading into the Rio Olympics.

But we will defer Tietjens, who after 22 years as national coach knows what he is doing.

There are, however, debuts for two other Counties Manukau players, Josh van Lieshout and Sione Molia, both of whom shone as the province won the national sevens title in January. Molia, in particular, has some serious pace.

"The guys have got over the travel and trained well. We had a game against Germany, because it's been a while since we played in Sydney. We've got new combinations coming to grips with what we need to do," Tietjens told

Both tournaments, in Las Vegas and next weekend in Vancouver for the Canada Sevens, will be played on artificial turf.

"We've trained on grass all week ... the legs may be a bit heavier on the turf, and you might have a few more grazes, but it will be a hard, fast surface and teams that adjust quickly will certainly play well," said Tietjens.

Players not available for these two legs due to injury are Scott Curry, Declan O'Donnell, Isaac Te Tamaki and Joe Webber, and players unavailable due to Super Rugby commitments are Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Ben Lam and Ardie Savea.

There will be live TV coverage on SKY pop-up channel 56.

- NZ Herald

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