I failed to respect All Blacks jersey, admits star Kaino
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 said modestly. “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. I overlooked that and tried to think too much.”
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 maintained.
“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.
“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 this week.
“We always try to create an uncomfortable feeling within the group so we prepare as well as we can. We never want to think we need to lose to bounce back and get a good performance.”
Kaino has worked under Schmidt during his time as assistant coach at the Blues.
Even back then, Kaino could see the potential Schmidt had.
“He is very similar to the coaches we have here, they focus a lot on the detail,” Kaino explained. “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 proven what he can do, how smart he is technically, and how he does his homework.
“They’ve always had the fancy moves and the flair that they had in Brian O’Driscoll and you look at Keith Wood — 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.