Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Kaino could help Blues find extra zip


Jerome Kaino has 48 All Black caps.

There will be more if he brings his old venom to the Super 15 series to bolster an already rich mix of All Black loose forwards.

The curiosity will be where he fits into that jigsaw.

Kaino ended an aristocratic final few years with a run of dynamic performances at the 2011 World Cup before heading for a change of pace in Japan.

He was a tremendous player who took some time to get his mind in sync with his physical prowess so he could produce high quality work for the All Blacks. When he got that sorted, his loose forward liaison with Richie McCaw and Kieran Read was as good as any in All Black history.

Kaino was a punishing defender down the blindside corridors or in midfield, carried the ball strongly and was a useful lineout target.

His low-level mistake rate was gold and he deserved to be New Zealand player of the year.

In his absence the All Blacks have moved their game up a few notches with Liam Messam raising his work on the blindside and Steven Luatua bringing his athletic mix to the duties too.

They have introduced Sam Cane and Matt Todd to work with McCaw and at No8, Victor Vito had a spell and Luke Whitelock was taken on the end of year tour.

That looks like a full house but Kaino in any sort of form has to muscle past the understudies.

His return to the Blues begins tonight off the bench at Eden Park against the Cheetahs and offers an absorbing choice for the coaches with fellow All Black Luatua bringing his high levels of abrasive work on the blindside. The Blues withered in Pat Lam's final year of command, hinted at some substance with John Kirwan and his crew last year but have made a stuttering start this season.

They need a harder edge where someone like Kaino can drive the measures captain Luke Braid wants to instil.

Tonight is likely to be a fragmented contest without the unyielding discipline needed to confront the better sides in the tournament.

Kaino should bring that attitude the Blues need to grab for their improvement.

He and Ma'a Nonu, if he gets his work organised, bring a forceful direct approach to allow the Blues to use the edges of the park.

A blotchy scrum and lineout has not allowed them to find that balance on attack or defence while they have been too lateral with the ball and have a leaky defence.

One man will not rectify the problems but Kaino has the ability to drag his teammates into more concerted production.

The danger is if the Blues rely on him too much, the rest of the team need to up their game too.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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