22 Jun 2015

Messam opts for Olympics

2:39 pm on 22 June 2015

The All Blacks loose forward Liam Messam will put his Super Rugby career on hold in a bid to win an Olympic gold medal at next year's Rio Games.

Messam, who won a Commonwealth Games gold in sevens for New Zealand in 2006 and 2010, has left the Chiefs to concentrate on breaking into the Olympic squad.

Liam Messam is putting Super Rugby on hold in a bid to win Olympic gold.

Liam Messam is putting Super Rugby on hold in a bid to win Olympic gold. Photo: Photosport

"He'll be very difficult to replace," coach Dave Rennie said of the 31-year-old Chiefs captain.

"But it's exciting for him. He obviously won a gold medal at Commonwealth Games and to try and win an Olympic gold would be pretty special so we'll fully support it and who knows, he may be back in '17."

The Chiefs are also expected to lose another marquee player in All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams, who has also spoken of a tilt at Olympic gold.

Both Williams and Messam were named on Sunday in a 41-man squad for the All Blacks' warm-up tests for their defence of the rugby World Cup in England.

Like the All Blacks, New Zealand's sevens team are reigning world champions and highly likely to enter the Rio tournament as favourites.

Messam's absence for at least a year will leave a leadership void for Rennie, whose Chiefs were knocked out of the Super Rugby playoffs on Saturday by the Highlanders.

The back-to-back 2012-13 champions face a big recruiting drive over the off-season, with several players departing for foreign clubs, including Tom Marshall, Bryce Heem, Tim Nanai-Williams and Hosea Gear.