The Rugby World Cup: A totally professional hitman

The Warrior: Pat Lam of Manu Samoa; David Llewellyn hears that the islanders' leader is a born destroyer

ACCORDING TO a recent scientific study carried out in New Zealand, the muscles of Polynesians are harder than those of Europeans. And that looks an irrefutable fact when you watch Pat Lam making or taking a tackle, or just running at defenders. This supremely conditioned athlete acts on a group of defenders rather in the way a splitter acts on a log when the woodsman has delivered a well-timed blow with a sledgehammer. Lumps fly off in every direction. On the rugby field, the only difference is that the poor dazed lumps have to get up and go through it all again, and again...

In the past, Northampton's Lam has admitted: "I would say in Samoa we almost prefer tackling to running with the ball. We thrive on physical contact." That is why any match involving the South Seas sides - Samoa, Tonga and Fiji - should prove to be a thunderous affair, featuring some of the biggest hits of the tournament.

Lam has made a huge impact on English rugby for other reasons as well, though. He is not just a hard-bodied headcase who feels no pain. His former coach at Northampton, Ian McGeechan, paints a very different picture of the man off the pitch. Almost a pacifist and, contrary to what he does to opponents on the pitch, a great respecter of his fellow men off it.

"He is a big family man, and they are deeply religious as a family," says McGeechan. "Pat is someone who is very concerned about people. When I was leaving the club he rang me from the South Seas, and the day after coming back, he came round to my house to talk to me."

But McGeechan, who left Franklin's Gardens to take up the post of Scotland coach after this World Cup, acknowledges the physical nature of Lam on the park. "He lives for contact. That is because in the South Seas, playing rugby and the physical contact in the game is all part of the warrior experience.

"And they won't waste talent, because they see that as a blessing. A God-given thing."

But Lam, who had played for New Zealand Colts before committing himself to Samoa, is also a thinker. McGeechan adds: "From my point of view as a coach the really good thing with Pat was his excitement about what we were trying to do at Northampton. A lot of what we were trying was new and a step ahead of everyone else. And he is using a lot of it with Samoa."

Someone else who had first-hand knowledge of Lam is John Gallagher, the former All Black full-back now director of rugby at Harlequins. "I knew Pat when he was a 19-year-old," he says. "We were in the New Zealand side at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1989. Off the field he was a shy young man. But on it you could already see that he was an explosive player, either with ball in hand or defending.

"Now at 30 he is a mature international footballer.He adopts a good body angle picking up at No 8. He is very fit. A good support runner picking good lines. I think he is very focused, very committed, and that definitely comes across when you talk to him. He takes his rugby very seriously and is an asset to any team."

McGeechan thinks Lam has improved since he came to Britain, joining Newcastle in 1996 before heading south to Northampton a couple of seasons later.

"He is outstanding," says McGeechan. "I think he has really blossomed since coming to the UK. He is such a good influence, he is so positive about playing and about trying things, and his excitement rubs off on everyone else. There is a buzz and a conviction to him and his play.

"His skill and power at close quarters has really given an edge to everyone at Northampton. He is just an outstanding player, because he can do so many different things and he is so comfortable doing them."

It is Lam's stated intention to retire from the game at international level once this tournament is over, although he fancies two or three more years at club level. He and his fellow countrymen, having reached the quarter-finals in two previous tournaments - 1991 and 1995 - are determined to at least match that, but if possible to improve on it this time around.

They have a few more professionals in the squad now, but none of them needs a financial incentive. For them there is the simple honour of playing for their country.

While no match is actually a battle, Lam and his team-mates are warriors all; and they will play like that. Richter is about to go off his scale.

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : CRM Services Manager; West London up to £40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Langley James : CRM Services Manager; West London u...

Langley James : IT Support; Residential Agency; Mayfair; up to £30k

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Langley James : IT Support; Residential Agency; May...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?