Rio selection dilemmas for New Zealand: Liam Messam in or out?

A headline today in a New Zealand sports website says ‘Messam shouldn’t go to Rio’.

It’s a very tough decision for Sir Gordon Tietjens.

Messam has shown glimpses of what he can bring with superb performances in Las Vegas and Vancouver. On the flip side he was yellow carded in one match and hadn’t shone out in earlier tournaments. He’s also been injured for more than half of the World Series.

Akira Ione and Ardie Savea were brilliant in Wellington and Sydney setting the bar at an extremely high level for those returning from 15s rugby.

In a straight 5 forwards 7 backs lineup, the All Black 7s forwards could very easily exclude Messam:

  • DJ Forbes
  • Scott Curry
  • Sam Dickson
  • Akira Ione
  • Sonny-Bill Williams

The late withdrawal of Ardie Savea gives Messam a higher chance of making it but if Sir Titch truly believes what he’s saying in the media about Sonny-Bill Williams, then Messam could well miss out.

I think he’s gathered so much information in the last six tournaments on how to play the game – I believe you’re going to see him showcasing all his skill sets because he’s certainly a very talented rugby player

I still believe that the decision will be between Sonny-Bill Williams and Messam for the 5th spot.

  • Those 2 have the least (recent) international sevens experience
  • Neither offer specialist skills in the re-start, backing-up and line running areas like Curry and Dickson bring
  • Willaims has yet to cut loose. He tends to play within himself and has yet to figure out when to throw the offload pass and when not
  • Messam is a similar player to DJ Forbes – very high work rate, tackling, hitting rucks and winning ball in the post-tackle but Forbes has proved better at it this series
  • Messam is out of chances to push his case for selection now that he’s injured

Essentially it’s Sonny-Bill Williams spot to lose. Sit Titch has given him the license (and no doubt the fitness) to succeed – the rest is up to him.

Paris and London will be interesting …