Belfast Telegraph

Proud culture will spur on the Maori All Blacks, warns Messam

 

By Nick Purewal

The British and Irish Lions will face a team of warriors "bound by blood" in Rotorua tomorrow, Maori All Blacks star Liam Messam has warned.

No.8 Messam boasts 43 full New Zealand caps, but cannot wait to face the Lions in Maori colours.

Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie will start at fly-half in a deadly-looking Maori XV, with head coach Colin Cooper challenging his side to attack at pace.

Leinster-bound flyer James Lowe slots in at full-back, with Messam admitting the Maori squad's heritage helps forge strong relationships.

"We're bound by blood; we naturally come together as a group of brothers," said Messam. "But even so, we can't take that for granted, so it's about switching on together and working on our plans.

"When you come into this environment you put away your Super Rugby colours and come together as one. The quicker we can do that we can use that to our advantage.

"We'll make sure when we come together on Saturday we'll use the connections we have and our culture to bind us tightly."

The Maori pulled off their first ever win over the Lions in the tourists' ill-fated New Zealand trip in 2005, where the All Blacks also swept to a whitewash series win.

Boss Cooper admitted that stirring 19-13 victory in Hamilton 12 years ago can still prove inspirational to the Maori class of 2017.

Asked if the Maori can draw on that pulsating triumph, Cooper replied: "Very much so. Again, it's this team that's representing those guys, representing their exploits. That's inspiring."

Cooper admitted he hopes he can nudge a host of his players All Blacks boss Steve Hansen's way, in both the short and long term.

"All these players want to represent the All Blacks, and I want to push as many of them as I can to that level," said Cooper.

"We want them to be proud of who they are and seize the opportunity to represent the Maori, and to aspire to be the best that they can, and that's to chase a chance with the All Blacks."

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