Jerome Kaino hits back at claims he intentionally tried to hurt Conor Murray
Jerome Kaino, the All Black at the centre of the controversial targeting of Conor Murray in last week's first Test against the Lions, has denied the charge that he intentionally set out to injure the Ireland scrum-half.
The experienced flanker was involved in a 10th-minute incident in which he threw himself in Murray's direction as the 27-year-old got a box-kick away, colliding with his standing leg after the ball had left his boot.
Although there were a number of New Zealanders who came through on Murray, that incident is understood to have been the one that prompted Warren Gatland to go public in the belief that the tackling put his player in danger.
Kaino was not penalised at the time of the incident, nor was he cited for any offence.
At 34, Kaino is one of the most experienced members of the All Black squad. A double World Cup winner, he is fully aware of the charges laid at his feet after fans got in touch with him directly on social media and he decided to confront the issue head-on.
"I think what is at question here is my intent and what kind of player I am, and all I can say is that I never go into a game thinking that I am going to target someone and intentionally hurt them. I just wanted to clear that up," he said.
"It is never our intention to go out and intentionally injure someone outside the laws.
"We play hard and we play fair. That incident was a one-off. It is never our intention to go out and try and single anyone out.
"It was more (about) timing. He is very quick getting the ball to foot, and there was a bit of timing there.
"But what has been said out there about malice and intention to hurt someone, that is never the case. It wasn't my intention to hurt anyone, and to play outside the rules. I wasn't cited. I don't think I should have been.
"I've seen it reviewing the game and it has popped up on my Twitter feed about a million times, so it is a bit hard to avoid it.
"It is never nice when you have things done to you outside the laws, and the way we do things, it's within the spirit of the game.
"I didn't go in to tackle him. I rolled into his leg. What I was trying to do, his swinging foot - if you can disrupt that - it's like an ankle-tap, so you disrupt the kick. My timing was off, and I rolled into his planted foot, and that's what I believed happened."
Kaino does not believe the furore around the incident will affect him ahead of Saturday's second Test.
"It is a different game now, and a different world with social media added into it. But you learn how to block things out, and you have great people around you that you get good advice from. You have a little glance at it, but it doesn't really affect me too much.
"We haven't really focused too much on what the coaches say between each other. Our focus for our team is how we can get better for next weekend and get the win.
"Whatever is said out there in the media world doesn't really affect us too much, and it shouldn't."
Kaino says the All Blacks' focus is on improving their performance in order to secure the series victory at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
And he said he'll think twice about the way he goes about trying to get at the No 9 this weekend given the additional focus.
"We need to make sure we are on the right side of the law when we do things, and I thought I was there," he said. "Individually, a lot of us weren't too happy with our performances, and focusing on other comments is not going to fix individual performances. I don't think it bothers us too much what is going on outside."