All Blacks name Jerome Kaino in secondrow for Ireland test

Flanker will make his first start at lock for New Zealand on Saturday

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has thrown a few curve balls selection wise in the home city of Wednesday night's baseball World Series winners the Chicago Cubs, the most interesting of which is naming Jerome Kaino in the secondrow for Saturday's rugby Test match against Ireland at Soldier Field.

The absence of the injured Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock through injury and Luke Romano's family bereavement means that Kaino, an outstanding backrow forward, moves into the engine room alongside Patrick Tuipulotu, the latter with only 10 Tests under his belt.

Hansen explained: “Jerome has been covering for us the last few weeks and he’s very comfortable in the position.”

"We got Sam (Whitelock) and Brodie (Retallick) snipered a couple of weeks ago so they are not available. Unfortunately Luke Romano had a bereavement in his family and we send our best wishes to him and Hannah. Then we got a young guy (Scott Barrett) who has not played a test match, he has only been around the team for four days so we just felt it was better for him coming off the bench.


“JK covered lock for us at the World Cup and during this season as well. We are relatively comfortable that he will be ok, he’s a good scrummager and we got quite a bit of variation in our lineout.”

The other eye-catching decision is the preference for George Moala in the centre to partner Ryan Crotty. The reasoning appears to be that Anton Lienert-Brown, for all his attacking brilliance in the last few tests, was showing signs of fragility on defence.

It came down to a straight choice between Moala and Malakai Fekitoa and the former won out on the basis that he would have been the starting centre in the Rugby Championship had injury not struck.

Hansen said of the decision: “LB (Lienert-Brown) has been brilliant for us this year but like all young players you just can’t give him too much. He’s had six games and four starts and there are signs there that he is starting to feel all that and it was time for him to come out of all that and do a bit of training and relieve some of the pressure. We will see him again before the season is out.

“George, if you go back to the first Rugby Championship game, was our first-pick centre so we have just gone back to that.”

Waisake Naholo has won a starting spot on the right wing over Israel Dagg, who started the last game against Australia. It is the first time that the All Blacks have started with Naholo and Julian Savea since June.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s test, Hansen is expecting a stern challenge from Joe Schmidt’s side as the All Blacks seek to extend their winning streak.

“I know this Irish side is a good team. Last time we played they should have won. They have only got better since then. They will be disappointed with what happened at the World Cup but they had a lot of injuries unfortunately through the tournament that put them under a lot of pressure and probably didn’t have the success they wanted. But they have continued on, they have beaten South Africa and had a great series against them.

“They maximise what they got and through their coaching staff, led by Joe, they have a really clear idea how they want to play.”

Hansen admitted to being wary of Ireland boss Schmidt’s penchant for developing one-off set moves specially designed to pick apart specific opponents.

“A real physical encounter, one where they’ll kick the ball a wee bit with Sexton and Murray who are key guys at driving them around the park.

“The chase of their kicks is good - they’ll compete in the air.

“They score a lot of points off their lineout as well. They like to play little set plays where they think (the opposition) is vulnerable here, so they jack up a little set play to exploit that. We’ve got to make sure we plug those holes.”

New Zealand: Ben Smith; Waisake Naholo, George Moala, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks; Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino; Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read. Replacements: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Save, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer