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Messam backs up for Chiefs-Lions showdown

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5 days ago Angelo Risso

Liam Messam will get a second crack at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on Tuesday for his beloved Chiefs.

Because, despite the loose forward stalwart's 33 years, he'll take to the field for a second match in three days against the British and Irish Lions.

The Ngai Tuhoe-affiliated Messam played the full 80 on Saturday as the Maori All Blacks were strangled 32-10 by the Lions in Rotorua, helpless to halt the tourists' territorial dominance and forward march via a ruthless set-piece.

Yet, true to form, the two-time Super Rugby champion and 2015 World Cup winner will don the Chiefs colours once more on Tuesday, starting on the pine as they attempt to become the third franchise to down the Lions' mid-week troops.

He was keen to play as many minutes as possible in a youthful Chiefs side, missing Test stalwarts Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Nathan Harris and Tawera Kerr-Barlow to All Blacks duty.

Charlie Ngatai and Damian McKenzie are also absent.

"I've just gotten out of the scratchers, so there's been a lot of sleeping and just trying to recover really," Messam told reporters on Monday.

"It was good to be in Rotorua, go down into the thermal pools.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play these guys, (so) I'm grateful to get two cracks at them - I'll be good to go."

While the Maori had barely a week to prepare for the Lions' set-piece onslaught, the Chiefs - with or without their star men - have had a full season together working on the basics, and currently sit third in the Kiwi conference.

Messam predicted a similarly brawny Lions showing on Tuesday, despite the omission of almost all of their Test players for Saturday's All Blacks clash.

But the Chiefs would be ready.

"They went to their strengths, their set-piece, scrummaging and lineout mauls - the All Blacks will definitely be looking at that, and same here," Messam said.

"Our boys here, we're very well prepared, we've been together the whole season so we have a few more tools up our sleeve, we can nullify that."

While Ngatai, McKenzie and the Test-bound Kerr-Barlow haven't backed up from Maori All Blacks duty for Tuesday, Chiefs boss Dave Rennie was certain Messam and teammate Hikawera Elliot would be ready for a second spin.

Messam, Elliot and the likes of stand-in skipper Stephen Donald, Tim Nanai-Williams, Dominic Bird and Nepo Laulala would lead the charge.

"Liam, 160-odd games for us - he's pretty resilient," Rennie said.

"Our leaders have done a great job highlighting what a special occasion it is, (and) the guys know it's an absolute privilege to play in this sort of fixture - we certainly don't want the young fellas to be scared and go into their shell."

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