Rugby: Liam Messam set for Chiefs return after Olympic snub

Liam Messam. Photo / Getty
Liam Messam. Photo / Getty

Life moves on, says Liam Messam, and that progression will now be happening rather quickly for the overlooked sevens hopeful.

After today failing in his quest to earn a spot in Sir Gordon Tietjens' squad for the Rio Olympics, Messam will hardly have long to stew over the setback.

The Chiefs' most capped player is instead set to make an instant and surprise return to the franchise he's long led, raising his hand for the final two rounds of Super Rugby and any potential playoff dates.


Messam was expected to sit out the entire competition after signing a two-year deal with Toshiba and opting to fix his attention on chasing an Olympic dream. But the Japanese club have granted permission for Messam to feature for the Chiefs as early as Friday night's trip to the Reds.

His availability will be a major boon for the New Zealand conference leaders, beset by injuries to their loose forwards. While Sam Cane has been ever-present on the openside and Taleni Seu has impressed at No 6, Messam could make an immediate impact on the back of the scrum.

First-choice No 8 Michael Leitch will be on the sidelines until at least the playoffs after dislocating his thumb, and Maama Vaipulu is also absent with a long-term injury. That had seen Super Rugby rookie Tom Sanders promoted to the run-on XV, but Chiefs coach Dave Rennie now has a slightly more experienced option at his disposal.

"I have to see if I can make that team now," Messam told Newstalk ZB about the possibility of adding to his 144 Chiefs caps. "I'm still injury cover for the boys in the sevens and I still have to stay match-fit, so I'm just grateful the Chiefs are opening their doors to me. I'm lucky enough that I can go there and stay match-fit and be ready if the sevens boys need me."

Messam describes that scenario as a "balancing act", given the varied demands of the two games, but thinks the constant contact he'll face in matches and the extra fitness work he'll undertake in trainings will see him ready if the call arrives.

But any SOS appears unlikely, given Tietjens is already travelling with two reserves, meaning Messam may have seen the last of the format in which he made his name.

Nagging injuries that severely restricted his involvement on the world series circuit were cited as a major reason why the 32-year-old was overlooked, while a relative lack of height in the modern version of sevens and an underwhelming performance at the national trial probably also played a part.

"As any human being would be, I was pretty disappointed," he said of the snub. "But I have no regrets because I gave it my all, and that's all that I could ask of myself - to go out there and give everything that I had.

"I thought I did that but it was just one of those calls that Titch had to make, so life moves on. I would say the sun still came up in Hamilton today but the fog's around."

- NZ Herald

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