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Maoris unite ahead of Lions clash

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/06/2017 Angelo Risso

From many provinces and iwi, to one side united by blood.

Maori All Blacks warhorse Liam Messam says unshackling from the rivalries of franchise and provincial rugby to unite for the British and Irish Lions' challenge was a cinch.

The 33-year-old Messam, a 12-time Maori All Black and 45-Test stalwart, has been named at No.8 for the clash in Rotorua on Saturday, part of a fearsome loose forward unit including Elliot Dixon and All Blacks ring-in Akira Ioane.

Hailing from Ngai Tuhoe in the eastern North Island, Messam - a former captain of the Maori - told reporters he and his teammates had bonded immediately, as they aim to repeat the feat of the 2005 Maori side by downing the star-studded Lions.

"It's pretty simple to break the boundaries - you know, the first thing is that we're bound by blood, automatically we come in as a group," Messam said.

"You still need to work on those small connections inside the group, but we've got that silver fern on our chest, so we're still representing New Zealand, Aotearoa.

"You put away your Super side, and come in as one - the quicker we can do that, then we can use that to our advantage on Saturday."

Despite their shaky early form and losses to the Blues and Highlanders, the Chiefs veteran said the Lions side was one of the strongest he could recall.

Bustling Welshman Taulupe Faletau, a certain Test starter, will oppose Messam in the Lions No.8 jumper, potentially setting him up for a tough night at the office.

But the 2015 Rugby World Cup winner insisted he was ready for anything - whether wearing the black jumper, Maori black jumper or Chiefs colours.

He may also double up and take on the Lions for the Chiefs on Tuesday.

"I'm a very proud of person and whatever jersey I wear, I do it with 110 per cent, and give everything I have for that moment and jersey," Messam said.

"I try and express (myself) every time."

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