WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s preparations for their World Cup defence got a boost on Wednesday with three players likely to be involved in coach Steve Hansen’s plans re-signing to stay in the country until after the 2015 tournament.
Loose forwards Liam Messam and Sam Cane and scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow have agreed new contracts with the New Zealand Rugby Union and their Super Rugby franchise the Waikato Chiefs until the end of the tournament in England, the organisations said in a statement.
Messam, who is currently injured, has developed into Hansen’s first-choice blindside flanker while Cane is being groomed as All Blacks’ captain Richie McCaw’s understudy.
Kerr-Barlow is one of a trio of young scrumhalves brought into the side by Hansen since the 2011 World Cup with the team looking to play an up-tempo style.
“The three players are outstanding men all in their own right and all bring something special to the group,” Hansen said.
“Liam is a natural leader and key member of the All Blacks, while Sam and Tawera have also impressed us since coming into the All Blacks in the past two years.”
The trio all won their second successive Super Rugby title this year with the Chiefs and join fellow All Blacks player Brodie Retallick in re-signing with the Hamilton-based team this year.
“Liam is an incredibly inspirational and passionate Chiefs man who has had a massive impact on our group of men,” Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said.
“Sam and Tawera are two terrific young men who have been a big part of the success at the Chiefs over the last couple of years… and are a key part of the Chiefs future.”
The 29-year-old Messam has played 23 tests for the All Blacks and 114 matches for the Chiefs, while 21-year-old Cane has eight test caps and 40 games for the Chiefs.
Kerr-Barlow, 23, has played five times for the All Blacks and 41 for the Chiefs.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ken Ferris)