Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Open the cage, Kaino is ready to make his mark

Injured players, Kieran Read and Sam Cane of the All Blacks look on from the sidelines as Jerome Kaino runs through drills during a New Zealand All Blacks training. Photo / Getty.
Injured players, Kieran Read and Sam Cane of the All Blacks look on from the sidelines as Jerome Kaino runs through drills during a New Zealand All Blacks training. Photo / Getty.

Described as a "caged animal" by coach Steve Hansen, Jerome Kaino will be doing all he can to prove he is at home among the big beasts of the international game and make Kieran Read's return to the No8 jersey a difficult one.

Kaino's ability and high standards he set himself before his move to Japan have put him straight back into the All Blacks mix on his return, and, this week, the starting line-up following Read's recovery from concussion.

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Kaino has been extremely hard on himself despite his impressive recent performances for the Blues. Against the Sharks at North Harbour a fortnight ago his verdict was that he went missing too often. What followed was a tour de force against the Hurricanes at Eden Park, a match in which he took a direct route through many of the visitors' forwards to score a try not many others would have got near.

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On reflecting on his selection yesterday, Kaino stated he had "some big shoes to fill", but there is no doubt he will want it to be more than a one-off.

"I've felt good playing Super 15 -- with the amount of game time I've been getting my confidence has been growing," he said. "International rugby is a different beast to Super 15 so I can take a bit of that confidence into Saturday night but the main focus for me is just to prepare well."

Hansen said of Kaino's timely return to play at Eden Park in an All Blacks jersey for the first time since the World Cup final: "I never wanted him to go in the first place; we had a bit of a discussion about that but he always said he was going to come back and he's come back at the right time which is great. I think he's like a caged animal, he's pretty keen to get out there."

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Once Kaino had decided to return to New Zealand, he set about preparing himself mentally as a No8. With Steven Luatua in such good form for the Blues last year, Kaino believed that would be his best chance of cracking John Kirwan's starting line-up.

With Luatua struggling for form, Kaino has swapped between blindside flanker and No8. He doesn't have a lot of experience at the back of the scrum for the All Blacks, but reckoned he would get the best possible support from fellow loose forwards Richie McCaw and Liam Messam.

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England are likely to take the direct approach, but Kaino has the strength and determination to turn that route into a cul de sac.

Hansen, however, thinks Stuart Lancaster's team will also look to test them in other areas.

"I imagine they'll look to drive us in the lineouts, they'll look to come up the middle of the park and use switches to try and see if we've got our short-side defence sorted out and maybe look to turn us around a bit too," he said.

"This England side can do some things better than we can and we need to make sure that we improve in those areas so we least get on similar ground to them."

- APNZ

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