Messam in line for New Zealand Sevens return

Date published: February 25 2016

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All Blacks flanker Liam Messam is in line to make his return to his country's national Sevens team for the first time since 2010.

Messam was included in a 14-man All Blacks Sevens squad to prepare for the fifth and sixth legs of the 2015/16 World Series, in Las Vegas and Vancouver.

Former captain DJ Forbes also returns to the squad. The team of 12 players for the USA Sevens will be named later next week.

Messam has not played since he helped New Zealand win gold at the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010 and could play in Las Vegas.

“The big key when you have been out of the game for a long time is getting sevens fit and if you’re not, the game is hard to get into," New Zealand Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens told allblacks.com.

"He’s noticed that and he’s been working very hard to get there.”

Sonny Bill Williams will travel to Las Vegas to possibly play in his third sevens tournament. He’s impressed Tietjens who started him in both the Wellington and Sydney finals.

“He’s growing every time he goes out in the sevens field," explained Tietjens.

"He’s a lot further ahead than I thought he would be. He’s getting a real understanding of the game and is offering us a lot. His aerial skills are great, he’s got that offload and he’s using his physicality really well. 

“Our team now is based around physicality and being better around contact. That’s why we did so well in those last two tournaments. We need to dominate as ball carriers. We need to hold on to the ball and be ruthless in contact.”

Speedster Joe Webber who scored the winning try at Wellington Sevens has been ruled out of the remaining tournaments for this season following surgery on a recurring shoulder injury.

“Hopefully he will be right to be considered for Rio," said Tietjens.

"He may be a quick healer, but the diagnosis isn’t great. Never-say-never. He could be there.”

New Zealand are currently jointly leading the series, tied on 69 points with Fiji and South Africa following wins in Wellington and Sydney. 

The All Blacks Sevens have not won in Las Vegas and will go there with a new look team from Sydney with five players from that team returning to Investec Super Rugby duties.

“We would love to win in Las Vegas,” added Tiejtens. 

“We’re going for another good performance like the previous two. We want to be really positive, particularly with the new team we will have and that’s a good challenge.

“The new squad has pulled together really well since the start of the year on the back of two sub-par performances where we were decimated by injuries. 

"Those two wins in Wellington and Sydney have put us right back up the top with Fiji and South Africa so no complaints there and I’d love to continue that form.”

Both USA Sevens and Canada Sevens will be played on artificial turf for the first time in the World Series. Tietjens said this presented some challenges for players.

“It’s a challenge for sure," he added.

"We will train on it in Canada, but we’re not able to in Las Vegas. We’re not sure how that will impact on legs or injuries like grazes so it'll be an eye opener.”

New Zealand Sevens squad: Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Dylan Collier (Waikato), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau), Gillies Kaka (Hawke’s Bay), Josh Van Lieshout (Counties Manukau), Liam Messam (Waikato), Tim Mikkelson (c) (Waikato), Sione Molia (Counties Manukau), Lewis Ormond (Taranaki), Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau), Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki), Regan Ware (Waikato), Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau)

Players not available because of injury: Scott Curry, Declan O’Donnell, Isaac Te Tamaki, Joe Webber.

Players unavailable due to Super Rugby commitments: Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Ben Lam, Ardie Savea.

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