All Blacks: Kaino is Mr Durable

Jerome Kaino of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Jerome Kaino of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

He can't quite claim to have played every second of New Zealand's World Cup, having been substituted in injury time in last week's win over Australia, but Jerome Kaino comes the closest of any All Black at this tournament.

He's been this country's Mr Durable, featuring in 480 minutes of action in New Zealand's six games so far. He was replaced by Victor Vito late against Australia suffering from cramp and who can blame him after the World Cup shift he has pulled?

Only three players in the World Cup have played every minute of their side's games so far - France's Vincent Clerc and Australia's Quade Cooper and Adam Ashley Cooper.

But Kaino's 480 minutes of rugby is a fine achievement for a player who was once seen as inconsistent. His form in the tournament is a large reason for his nomination for the IRB Player of the Year and many believe he is one more good game away from winning the award.

Prop Tony Woodcock has played the second-most minutes of any All Black at the World Cup with 438 minutes on the pitch followed by his frontrow colleague Owen Franks who has clocked 423 minutes of action.

Conrad Smith has accumulated 400 minutes in battle while his long-term midfield partner Ma'a Nonu has featured for 393 minutes. The ageless Brad Thorn has put in 367 minutes of hard graft.

Richie McCaw's injured foot and Kieran Read's late arrival to the squad due to an ankle problem heaped huge pressure on Kaino to carry the All Blacks' backrow through the pool stages and the teak-tough backrower rose to the challenge admirably.

In a tournament littered with outstanding backrow talent, Kaino has been a standout performer with his powerful ball-carrying and fierce defence. He has scored four tries so far in the tournament, the most of any forward, but it's his defence that stands out and his tackle to deny Digby Ioane early in the game against Australia summed up his contribution.

"I'm think I'm going well," Kaino said modestly. "I'm enjoying the game time I've been getting throughout the World Cup. I've been thriving off the relationships we have in the forward pack and how the guys have been going.

"Other guys have been performing well and I have just been feeding off what they have been doing."

Kaino has been nominated for the prestigious IRB Player of the Year award along with fellow All Blacks and future Blues teammates Piri Weepu and Nonu.

It is not the fist time Kaino has been nominated for an IRB award. In fact, he claimed the under-21 equivalent in 2004 on the back of his barnstorming displays at the IRB Under-21 World Championship in Scotland.

That young Kiwi side contained a number of future All Blacks in the shape of Weepu and Luke McAllister, and Kaino beat off competition from future Ireland's Jamie Heaslip to claim the player of the tournament award. Kaino was offered a professional contract with the Blues soon after and made his All Blacks debut in 2006.

"To be nominated is humbling," said Kaino. "Looking throughout that list of nominees is huge for me. But we have a job to do this week and individual accolades won't mean anything if we don't do the job on Sunday."

- APNZ

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