Chiefs stalwart Liam Messam is aware that he'll need to fight hard for his place in the team this season and isn't even sure if he's still the captain.
Last season Messam lead the Chiefs in their Super Rugby campaign and only narrowly missed out on selection for the All Blacks World Cup squad. It was even rumoured that Messam was on standby should Richie McCaw be ruled out.
Despite all his plaudits from 2011, Messam faces stiff competition to find a place in the Chiefs' back row and coach Dave Rennie hasn't named his captain yet.
Powerful No.8 Fritz Lee, flanks Scott Waldrom and Tanerau Latimer are all in the fight for a place in the starting XV, while two of New Zealand's biggest prospects Sam Cane and Alex Bradley will also be piling on the pressure.
Messam does have the advantage of being able to play at 6, 7 or 8, but even a player of his stature will have their work cut out just to make the team.
"Yeah, it's going to be interesting. I'm quite excited with the young talent we have here at the Chiefs," Messam told APNZ. "I think it's mixed in with a lot of experience as well and I think all the boys are itching to get out there.
"I've made sure I've worked hard during the off season, especially with the younger boys [in the team] I guess, trying to lead by example and just try and stay in front hopefully to inspire them to work hard."
To add to the exciting loose forward the Chiefs have also signed two All Blacks to bolster their backline, with Sonny Bill Williams and Aaron Cruden joining from the Crusaders and Hurricanes respectively.
"I'm really excited to see the Sonny Bill-Richard Kahui combination probably one of the biggest midfields you could get, and they are an exciting talent," Messam added. "So really looking forward to seeing that and also Aaron Cruden coming up here to steer the ship, I guess. It's going to be a good backline."
Throw in former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith and the Chiefs have all the ingredients for a big season in 2012.
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