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Liam Messam names 'the freakiest player' he's ever played with

By Ned Lester
Josua Tuisova embraced after the Fiji game. Photo by Hans van der Valk/BSR Agency/Getty Images

In 17 years of professional rugby, 43-Test All Black Liam Messam played with some of the world’s finest players. None compared to Fiji’s Josua Tuisova.

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A standout in the Flying Fijians’ historic win over the Wallabies, Tuisova has earned huge praise for his damaging play on both sides of the ball.

The 29-year-old was an undeniable influence on the outcome of the match; a joint leader for carries (11) and turnovers won (3) while running for the second-most metres in the match and scoring his team’s only try.

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It’s the kind of performance Messam was well aware his former Toulon teammate was capable of.

“Bro, he’s a freak,” Messam told RWC on Island.

“I’ve played with some world-class players, some freakish players, guys like (Sitiveni) Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina, Dan Carter. But hands down, Josua Tuisova’s the freakiest player I’ve ever played with.

“He’s your typical Fijian too, sometimes he doesn’t show up, like ‘leave me alone, I don’t want to play today’ and then some days he’s the best player in the world and we’re seeing that.

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“His calves are the same size as Nili (Latu’s) head. He’s a big man and really impressive to see.”

Tuisova played across the backline during Fiji’s Pacific Nations Cup campaign, helping the team to a perfect record to win the competition.

The team built on that form and while a loss to France kicked off their Rugby World Cup warm-up games on a disappointing note, they bounced back with a first-ever win over England at Twickenham.

Tuisova didn’t play in that game after sustaining a knock in training, he then started the World Cup coming off the bench against Wales. Once on the field, the 113kg bruiser sparked a resurgence and brought Fiji back to the brink of victory, only to fall short in the dying moments.

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He was subsequently promoted to start at second five-eighth for the Wallabies Test.

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Traditionally, Fiji wins have come through dazzling, expansive play with long-range attacking plays sparked from all over the field. But against Australia, the team built pressure through their set piece and work at the breakdown before converting the Wallabies’ ill discipline into points through Simione Kuruvoli’s penalty kicks.

“It’s really impressive,” Messam said of the Fijian gameplan. “Maybe Fiji’s not known for kicking goals but it’s really going to pay off at the end of the tournament.

“The bonus is they’ve got the crowd on their side now, they’re the second favourite team in the competition. There’s France and then there’s going to be Fiji.

“You see all the people dressed up in Bula shirts and chanting, that goes a long way when you’re playing in a tournament.”

Points Flow Chart

Fiji win +7
Time in lead
11
Mins in lead
59
14%
% Of Game In Lead
73%
37%
Possession Last 10 min
63%
0
Points Last 10 min
0

As is the case every World Cup, fans can’t help but love the Fijian team. Former Manu Samoa star Tuilagi Alesana Tuilagi sees the team having what it takes to go all the way.

“The quality of the players that Fiji have, and the team, it shows last week,” he said of the win over Australia. “They can beat any team in the world. There’s a passion for the game and they believe that with the way they played, they can beat any team in this competition.”

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J
Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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