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Maori All Blacks star Liam Messam fires warning to Lions ahead of showdown

Mirror logo Mirror 15/06/2017

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty Images The British and Irish Lions will face a team of warriors "bound by blood" in Rotorua on Saturday, Maori All Blacks star Liam Messam has warned. 

Number eight Messam boasts 43 full New Zealand caps, but cannot wait to face the Lions in Maori colours this weekend.

Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie will start at fly-half in a deadly-looking Maori XV, with head coach Colin Cooper challenging his side to attack at pace.

Leinster-bound flyer James Lowe slots in at full-back, with Messam admitting the Maori squad's heritage helps forge strong relationships.

"We're bound by blood; we naturally come together as a group of brothers," said Messam."But even so, we can't take that for granted, so it's about switching on together quickly and working on our plans in training.

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty "When you come into this environment you put away your Super Rugby colours and come together as one.

"The quicker we can do that we can use that to our advantage on Saturday. We'll make sure when we come together on Saturday we'll use the connections we have and our culture to bind us tightly."

The Maori pulled off their first-ever win over the Lions in the tourists' ill-fated New Zealand trip in 2005, where the All Blacks also swept to a whitewash series win.

Boss Cooper admitted that stirring 19-13 victory in Hamilton 12 years ago can still prove inspirational to the Maori class of 2017.

Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP Asked if the Maori can draw on that pulsating triumph, Cooper replied: "Very much so. Again it's this team that's representing those guys, representing their exploits. That's inspiring."

Rieko Ioane raced in for a try as the Blues sunk the Lions 22-16 in the second game of the tour, and will now face Warren Gatland's men in Maori colours.

The two-cap wing will be itching to show All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that he deserves inclusion in the first Test squad to face the Lions.

And Maori boss Cooper admitted he hopes he can nudge a host of his players Hansen's way, in both the short and long term.

Getty Images

"All these players want to represent the All Blacks, and I want to push as many of them as I can to that level," said Cooper.

"We want them to be proud of who they are and seize the opportunity to represent the Maori, and to aspire to be the best that they can, and that's to chase a chance with the All Blacks.

"Asked to explain the rationale behind starting regular full-back McKenzie at fly-half, Cooper added: "It's all about style of play."

Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: PA The Lions will bring a lot of line speed, so it's the ability to create space."

Maori All Blacks team to face the British and Irish Lions in Rotorua on Saturday : J Lowe, N Milner-Skudder, M Proctor, C Ngatai, R Ioane, D McKenzie, T Kerr-Barlow, K Hames, A Dixon (capt), B May, J Wheeler, T Franklin, A Ioane, E Dixon, L Messam.

Replacements : H Elliot, C Eves, M Renata, L Price, K Pryor, B Hall, I West, R Thompson.

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