Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Kaino's return will boost Blues

Jerome Kaino. Photo / Getty Images
Jerome Kaino. Photo / Getty Images

Jerome Kaino's return to New Zealand rugby will swell the loose forward riches and boost the fascination about All Black selections next year.

The 30-year-old is linking with the Blues for the next two seasons with a goal of joining the All Blacks for their World Cup defence in Britain in 2015.

Kaino starred on the blindside in the team's 2011 tournament victory before taking up a lucrative contract in Japan. The twin lures of being part of a Blues revival under John Kirwan and having another RWC shot have brought Kaino home.

When he left after 48 tests, he was the undisputed All Black blindside flanker as a brutal defender and towering athlete all around the park.

After a slow beginning to his test career, Kaino blossomed into a formidable competitor where his loose forward combination with captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read was high class.

Read and McCaw have carried on while Liam Messam and Steven Luatua have brought their style to the No6 black jersey with Victor Vito and Brad Shields as backup.

Luatua had a remarkable season with the Blues in that position and earned promotion to the All Blacks where his free-ranging carries and breakdown work offered a contrasting style to the rugged Messam.

It would seem strange for the Blues to shift Luatua from that position when the Super 15 resumes next season, especially as Kaino always hankered to play in the boot of the scrum.

That would give the Blues a much stronger leadership axis with halfback Piri Weepu also returning for another season with the franchise.

A loose trio of probable new captain Luke Braid, Luatua and Kaino, supplemented by Peter Saili and Brendon O'Connor, will be a strong start for the Blues who will alsohave Tony Woodcock at loosehead prop.

Kaino's signing is the second coup for Kirwan with former Tigers standoff Benji Marshall also heading to the Blues.

While Kaino will go into the loose forwards, Marshall's selection is not so straightforward with fullback, wing or five-eighths in the mix.

At times this year, the Blues needed more experience and leadership than they could muster from Ali Williams, Keven Mealamu, Braid, Weepu and Rene Ranger.

Kaino will help to boost that area with the knowledge gathered from a Super rugby career which began in 2004.

- NZ Herald

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