Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Destructive Kaino nearing his best

Jerome Kaino says his form isn't where he wants it to be, but a few Crusaders on the receiving end of either of his shoulders at Eden Park last Saturday would probably disagree.

The All Blacks enforcer helped set the tone for a Blues' defensive display as good as it has been all season despite their hard-fought loss to the visitors.

Any Wales players hoping Kaino's defence had slipped since the All Blacks' World Cup victory in the United Kingdom last year - underlined by a destructive start against the Wallabies in the final and on dangerman Israel Folau in particular - might want to think again.

Kaino might have lost a yard of pace over the years - he admitted as much today - but the man currently pushing reps of 140kg on the bench press isn't getting any less powerful.

"In the last couple of games I've been getting to where I need to be, but not where I want to be," Kaino said.


The 33-year-old, now very much a senior member of the team and one who has graduated to the back of the bus, is notoriously hard on himself in terms of his performances.

But he was consistently excellent for the Blues last season despite their poor run and he took it to a new level at the end of the year. Kaino's performances were often exceptional, including the quarter-final victory over France in Cardiff in which 50 per cent of his tackles were dominant - virtually unheard of at this level.

Like all of these All Blacks, Kaino likes a challenge and he has several in front of him with the addition to the squad of the in-form Highlanders' pair Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire, and the fact that Wales loose forward pair Toby Faletau, whom Kaino described as one of the best ball carriers in world rugby, and skipper Sam Warburton are two key members of Warren Gatland's line-up.

The collisions between Kaino and the Tongan-born 25-year-old Faletau in particular are likely to be bone jarring, with both teams looking for their big-hitters to make early statements.

Dixon and Squire, plus Ardie Savea, have added spark and a new sense of competition to the All Blacks' loose forward mix, which includes No8 Kieran Read and openside Sam Cane, who are likely to start the first test a week on Saturday alongside Kaino.

"It's a real positive for me," Kaino said. "I use their enthusiasm and a lot of things they bring to the table as motivation. Their skillsets that they bring, I don't have them. At training I try to add them to my arsenal and having them around ... you try to feed off that.

"They love playing out wide and they have a lot of speed that I used to have but don't have any more. It's an ongoing improvement process."

- NZ Herald

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