In the two years since Jerome Kaino sashayed offshore the All Blacks have played 28 tests.

Remarkably, through the twin branches of circumstance and his own ability, Kaino has regained his place in the side for the opening test tonight against England.

The last of his 48 caps was earned in the nerve-jangling conclusion to the 2011 World Cup when the All Blacks scraped past France. Kaino was immense throughout that tournament and the whole season, leaving the nation uncertain about his replacement.

That was a natural reaction to his departure yet Liam Messam, Steven Luatua and Victor Vito showed the depth of alternatives as the mood changed and questions began to bubble about whether Kaino would make it back to the top.


He had been in Japan and lost a touch of his bulk because of their aerobic emphasis in training and games. However, Kaino had managed to repair much of the damage his frame had suffered in the previous decade and sharpened his hustle, skills and game management.

When he decided to return home, Kaino was certain off his target and channelled all his energy towards that return. His form was outstanding and when luck abandoned Kieran Read, it leaped on Kaino's shoulder.

Everyone who takes to Eden Park tonight is embarking on a 15-month exam they hope will leave them with a tick of approval for the next World Cup in England.

A large chunk of the All Black squad is contracted until the end of 2016 but there will be some wondering if they might enjoy a year or two in Europe or Japan, like Kaino, before returning for another tilt at making the 2019 tournament.

That sort of "adventure" would offer players different perspectives on life and rugby and teach them to be more self-sufficient for what might occur once their careers are done.

About 15 present and former All Blacks have signed through to the end of this year, another 15 until the end of the 2015 World Cup season, and a few others such as Read, Sam Whitelock and Ben Smith beyond that.

They are all now in the race to make the 31 who will search for successive global titles next season.

When all that's done, they will all need a breather and a review of their immediate future. In their down time a chat with Kaino might offer a useful interlude to the New Zealand rugby treadmill.