James Mortimer 08.Aug.2012Getty Images
Messam was included in the All Blacks third test starting XV against Ireland in the Steinlager Series, and delivered a performance that was nearly perfect based on the coach’s requests.
Asked to be physical, dominant in the tackle, and devastating with ball in hand, Messam also flew around the loose like a madman, putting in the extreme work ethic that is often required of All Blacks back row forwards.
Recent test blindsides, namely Jerry Collins and Jerome Kaino, took some time to fully mature into their role as intimidators and arguably the best in the world in their positions, and it is indicative as to the difficult requirements of the position when considering that it is now – in most people’s eyes – a three horse race between Messam, Adam Thomson and Victor Vito.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said that Messam laid a marker when playing in Hamilton in the third test.
"His form in that Irish Test was outstanding," he said.
"He provided exactly what he was looking for, what we wanted, and he's continued to do that for the Chiefs."
This praise was echoed by Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, who said that Messam had simply become tougher this season.
"Liam's highlighted the fact that what you need (at) six is some intensity. He brings that defensively and with ball in hand," Rennie said.
"He's grown another leg this year; I’ve been really impressed with the man. He's got a harder edge about him."
Messam showed that his performances are now also laced with consistency, with the loose forward putting in a man-of-the-match performance against the Sharks in the Chiefs 37-6 win.
Messam made 18 tackles (topping the count), while carrying the ball into heavy traffic 14 times.
On form he will start at blindside for the All Blacks, and could secure his berth with another couple of barnstorming performances.