25 Feb 2016

Messam set for sevens return in Vegas

4:17 pm on 25 February 2016

World Cup winning All Black Liam Messam is in line to make his New Zealand sevens return at next weekend's next leg of the World Series in the United States.

All Black flanker Liam Messam

Former All Black Liam Messam could make his sevens return in Las Vegas. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Messam was included in the 14-man squad named by coach Sir Gordon Tietjens today for the next two tournaments in Las Vegas, which starts on March 4th and Vancouver, Canada which starts on March 12th.

Messam hasn't played since he helped New Zealand win gold at the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010.

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

The squad, which will be cut to 12 for the two tournaments, includes All Black midfielder Sonny Bill Williams, though Akira and Rieko Ioane and Ben Lam have returned to their Super Rugby side the Blues, as has Ardie Savea to the Hurricanes.

Williams could 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. 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."

Former captain DJ Forbes returns to the squad also.

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

The All Blacks Sevens have been drawn in Pool A for Las Vegas and will face Kenya, Portugal and Russia.

New Zealand is 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 Super Rugby duties.

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

The squad is;

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 (Captain) (Waikato)

Sione Molia (Counties Manukau)

Lewis Ormond (Taranaki)

Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau)

Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki)

Regan Ware (Waikato)

Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau)