Kaino: 'I didn't play with the respect the All Blacks jersey deserves'
Flanker admits that there has been an added edge in New Zealand camp this week after defeat to Ireland
Published 17/11/2016 | 02:30
Like several of his New Zealand team-mates, Jerome Kaino looked completely lost in Chicago but as he gets set to return to the familiar surrounds of the back-row, he is eager to use the 'uncomfortable' vibe that is in the camp to their benefit.
With Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock missing the defeat two weeks ago, Steve Hansen opted to shift his first-choice blindside to the engine room but it was a move that very much backfired.
Ireland inevitably targeted the All Blacks in the lineout as well as the maul but if, as expected, their first-choice lock pairing returns on Saturday, an altogether different challenge awaits Joe Schmidt's side.
"If selected I'm really looking forward to playing in a familiar position, but it's up to the coaches," Kaino says modestly as if Hansen would actually leave him out.
"I didn't really mind sliding into the second-row, it's just a matter of executing my role there. I was probably just focusing on the basics instead of focusing on other things I needed to do.
"I tried to be Brodie Retallick and do what he does! He dominates in those areas by just doing the basics well, first things first. Maybe I overlooked that and tried to think too much."
The biggest headache facing Schmidt this week will have been the back-row dilemma but there has been no such debate in the All Blacks camp.
They have been training as if Sean O'Brien will start at openside and if he does, Kaino is relishing coming up against the Tullow Tank in what promises to be a colossal match-up.
"They were menacing, very strong with ball in hand and direct," Kaino says of the Ireland pack's performance in Soldier Field.
"Sean O'Brien will also be in the mix and he's very strong with ball in hand. We like to go out and prepare against the best and we consider him one of the best. It would be great if he is running out there and he will be chomping at the bit to come up against us."
Ian Foster admitted that there was a "nervousness" around the All Blacks camp this week but the assistant coach, and likely next main man at the helm, insisted that it was a good thing.
Prior to the defeat in Chicago, Luke Romano returned home following a family bereavement which meant that Kaino was needed in the second-row but the 33-year-old felt that he let the famous jersey down.
"We had a reason to play well. Ireland were emotionally strong because of the death of (Anthony) Foley and they respected that but we also had a bereavement in our All Black family," Kaino maintains.
"What let me down was that I was wearing the jersey that guy (Romano) was meant to wear and I didn't play up to that standard and with the respect it deserved."
This group of New Zealand players are not used to losing which means that, by and large, they are forced to learn while they are winning.
Most coaches will tell you that you learn more from your defeats but as Hansen puts it: "You get all your options off the opposition."
And Kaino concurs: "I hate to say it, but we don't want to lose to be able to learn from it and bounce back and get an edge.
"We always try and create that edge week in, week out, but that loss in Chicago has just added a little bit of spice to the edge that we've got this week.
"We always try to create a sort of uncomfortable feeling within the group so we prepare as good as we can. We never want to think that we need to lose to bounce back and get a good performance."
Kaino has worked under Schmidt during his time as assistant coach to the current IRFU performance director David Nucifora at the Blues.
Even back then, Kaino could see the potential that Schmidt had and is wary of him conjuring up another successful game-plan on Saturday.
"He is very similar to the coaches we have here, they focus a lot on the detail," Kaino explains.
"If you see the way Ireland play, they are very structured and I can see a lot of Joe Schmidt in their game-plans.
"I have not been coached by Joe in a long time but he has kind of proven what he can do as a coach, how smart he is technically, and how he does his homework.
"So I think credit where credit is due, he did his homework leading into Chicago. We have to control what we need to do and not worry about them.
"They've always had the fancy moves and the flair that they have in Brian O'Driscoll and you look at Keith Wood back in Keith Wood's days - he was a hooker running in the backline as well."
Ireland are fully aware that they didn't see the best of the All Blacks two weeks ago.
They also didn't see the best of Kaino. Back in familiar territory, he and his team-mates are out to prove a point.