The All Blacks have made it to New Plymouth but Jerome Kaino hasn't. The veteran flanker, who left Sydney on the morning of the first Bledisloe Cup test for personal reasons, will instead be available for Auckland this week, who play Taranaki on Saturday.

Kaino couldn't possibly have imagined that when he was named in the Rugby Championship squad at the start of August, that he would spend time this year playing in the Mitre 10 Cup.

He's like all test players in that he would like to play more for his province but such is the overlap with test football these days, that the door only opens when the news on the All Blacks front isn't so good.

Peripheral squad members are occasionally granted release to play for their provinces during the Rugby Championship. It's a chance to give them a game, to keep them sharp.


The core members of the squad, though, they rarely if ever get to go back and play at that level. They are always needed by the All Blacks always have a role to play even if some weeks it is not on the field.

Kaino continues to be considered an integral part of the leadership team, but he is now in unprecedented territory after his life took a major change in direction following the media revelations that emerged ahead of that first test.

He's neither been injured or dropped but is instead in mutually-agreed exile while he tries to restore some stability on the home front. The All Blacks coaches are empathetic to his situation and want to see him successfully return to the national team.

They could have brought him to New Plymouth this week, but they need reassurance on two fronts before they recall him.

They need to be satisfied that Kaino is in the right sort of head space to play at his best. Head coach Steve Hansen has ample experience of seeing various players over the years battle their way through various personal adversities.

Some have coped better than others and there is no magic formula or easy way to know when a player is ready devote the necessary focus to their professional life without being distracted by what's going on in the domestic arena.

The second issue with Kaino is that he needs to rebuild his game fitness and prove his physical readiness, too. He played for the Blues in Tokyo on July 15 and then again for the All Blacks in their 'Game of Three Halves' on August 11.

He's a player who thrives on game time - needs it - and for all that he has the experience and ability to play well in test football on limited rations, the temptation might be to keep him in provincial rugby for a while longer so he can rebuild his confidence and form and rejoin the squad for the away leg of the Rugby Championship later this month.


Given the form of Liam Squire and the depth of available cover with Vaea Vifita and Akira Ioane, the coaches won't feel they need to rush Kaino back until there is mutual agreement that he's ready.