All Blacks: Steve Hansen defends starting Kaino at lock

By Gregor Paul in Chicago

The decision to start Jerome Kaino at lock in Chicago won't go down as a bad experiment but it might be a while before it is tried again.

That's more to do with the increased specialist options that the All Blacks now have rather than any misgivings about his ability.

Brodie Retallick has rejoined the squad and is available to play against Italy if required.

There is also, having made a hugely promising début, more confidence that it wouldn't be asking too much of Scott Barrett if he were to start.

Understandably, on the day the All Blacks lost to Ireland for the first time in 111 years, it was easy to overlook the contribution the young Crusaders lock made when he came on shortly after half-time.

But his performance was outstanding - stealing a lineout within minutes of coming on and then scoring a try that showed awareness, agility and great composure to reach out and twist over the line.

Sam Whitelock is tracking towards possibly being fit for the rematch in Dublin and while there is no word yet about when or if Luke Romano will re-join the tour, it's unlikely that Kaino or any other loose forward will be pressed into service out of position.

Video

Not that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would have any qualms starting Kaino at lock again. The veteran back-rower handled the difficult bits of the job better than expected.

He scrummaged well and took the right lines on defence and the lineout malfunctions were not his fault - the issue was the height of the throws.

Where he did struggle, and this possibly surprised the coaching team, was with his ball running in the middle of the field.

Normally one of the most dynamic and dominant ball carriers in world rugby when he plays at blindside, Kaino was twice held off the ground by Irish defenders and unable to have the impact he wanted.

"A lot of people are going to say that Jerome shouldn't have started at lock but the scrum was really good," said Hansen. "We didn't have too many in the first half but we scrummed well. The lineout wasn't his problem, it was more of a throwing problem and Colesy [Dane Coles] has been throwing really well all year so we are not going to lose too much sleep over that - we will get that sorted pretty quickly.

"That role of playing in the middle of the park was new to him and he probably over thought it a little bit and he, therefore, didn't carry as strongly as he possibly could.

Video

Before the match you would have said that would have been his strength and the other thing I think is that while the young fella [Scott Barrett] came on and played really well, it is about making sure he can play well in the long term.

"You don't want him to come on for a hard first half and lose his confidence so while he did really well, would he have have done that in the first half under the circumstances..? Don't know so I am still happy with the decision we made."

The expectation is that Retallick will be penned in to start against Ireland and may have some involvement against Italy if the selectors feel he might benefit having not played since the Eden Park clash against Australia.

Ideally, Whitelock will be passed fit to join him but without the guarantee of that, both Patrick Tuipulotu and Barrett will be asked to stake their claim in Rome.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 03 Dec 2016 12:30:39 Processing Time: 1485ms