Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: No one wants to feel the wrath of Kaino

There's consensus that Jerome Kaino's finest period was the 2011 World Cup.

It was certainly a massive tournament for him, playing all but a few minutes and each and every one of them high impact and high value.

But that was five years ago and to keep harking back to it is to entirely miss the fact that Kaino has gone beyond the summit he reached in 2011. Well beyond it and 2011, far from being the apex of his career, appears to have been more of an awakening: the point at which he found the key to unlocking his potential.

Ask All Blacks coach Steve Hansen which Kaino he'd rather have - the 2011 or 2016 version, and he'd say the latter every time. The difference now is that Kaino has that depth of conviction in his ability to impose himself.

He has, by longevity and experience, come to understand how he can use his explosive frame to damage opponents and with that, he has become a genuine enforcer.

Kaino intimidated the Wallabies in the opening two tests of the Rugby Championship.

They had no one who could counter his presence - no one who gave the impression they were either willing or equipped to stand up to him.

The Pumas were a little rattled by him, too. They couldn't put him down quickly enough and by the end of the game, their ball runners had half an eye on where he was.

What did it was his dominant tackle count and it is a rarity these days if he doesn't sit top of that list each test. It's a telling statistic as it measures the quality of his defensive impact and shows how much influence he has in ensuring the All Blacks win the collisions and the vital battle to always be going forward.

He hits square on and on his terms - something Pumas fullback Joaquin Tuculet discovered the hard way in Hamilton and what's important to realise with Kaino is that he's not just a big man, he knows he's a big man.

That is crucial. Dotted across the New Zealand rugby landscape are similarly-built athletes to Kaino. Youngsters such as Steven Luatua, Brad Shields and Akira Ioane have the same, or nearly the same power and athletic capacity.

What they don't have, though, is the same self-belief that they can stop ball runners on the gainline. They don't have that same inner voice telling them that they can stay on their feet through the first contact when they carry the ball and keep driving through the tackle.

Kaino has been building that particular mental strength since 2011, which is why he has had this foreboding feel to his body language in the Rugby Championship. He's carried himself with that look of menace - emanating a distinctive vibe of aggression.

He's like a wasps nest - sparking in all those who get too near an obvious sense of lurking danger which is best approached with caution.

It's probably fair to say that a few members of the All Blacks have become just as wary of him. He's reached the heights he has on the back of his self-discipline and commitment and he expects others to aspire to the same standards.

He, like many of his fellow leaders, wasn't happy with the way the All Blacks played for the first 50 minutes in Hamilton and anyone not working hard enough this week will most likely hear about it.

Kaino doesn't have to say much - a few quiet words is all it will take for his peers to lift their efforts. No one wants to feel the wrath of Kaino.

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