Jerome Kaino: I didn't respect All Blacks jersey in Chicago

‘Chicago loss has added a little spice to edge we’ve got this week,’ says senior All Black

When Jerome Kaino cashed out for two years in Japan after winning the Rugby World Cup in 2011, thoughts were that he deserved it, all of it.

He kicked his heels, played a lower level of rugby, and as you do as a World Cup winning All Black, you watch the sun go down from a comfortable apartment in Toyota and live off your €700,000 salary.

Yet here he is. A secondrow two weeks ago in Soldier Field, where, he says, "I tried to be Brodie Retallick", rested against Italy the following week, and now probably back to his favoured blindside against Ireland, the 33-year-old's second international career brings its own charm.

Kaino's agreement when he returned from Japan saw him make a major financial sacrifice of around €210,000 per year to rekindle his All Black dream. His only out clause was if he was not recalled to the New Zealand team.


He was and won another a World Cup medal in London. The same age as Jamie Heaslip, whom he beat to the 2004 World Junior Player of the Year award, he's now plotting the downfall of the Irish backrow, Seán O'Brien or no Seán O'Brien.

Familiar position

“Yeah, if selected I’m really looking forward to playing in a familiar position, but it’s up to the coaches,” he says. “I didn’t really mind sliding into the second row. Probably just focus on the basics instead of focusing on other things I needed to do.

“Yeah, I tried to be Brodie Retallick and do what he did. He dominates in those areas by just doing the basics well and first things first. Maybe I overlooked that and tried to think too much.”

Blot on the copy book then. But Kaino was kept out for a week as the rest of the squad demolished Italy. Part of the team leader group with Sam Whitelock, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Retallick, he also endorsed the decision to send home Aaron Smith last month after the scrumhalf’s tryst with a woman in a disabled toilet in Christchurch airport.

It is that group that will take closer charge of the housekeeping responsibilities this week in Dublin.

"We had a reason to play well and Ireland were emotionally quite strong because of the death of Foley and they respected that. But we also had bereavement in our All Black family (Lock Luke Romano returned to New Zealand because of a death in his family).

“What let me down was that I was wearing the jersey that guy [Romano] was meant to wear and I didn’t really play up to that standard and with the respect it deserved.”

As ever, respect is there for what Ireland achieved but more in a grit in the ointment type of way than real, tangible fear. New Zealand do not see Ireland as a new-look, modern strike force, but as a side that played well and maybe got lucky.


This week they are looking to within for motivation. They are looking towards each other, building confidence through the work ethic that they believe in and getting the right balance of precision and aggression that can get the job done.

No one needs reminding of their unbeaten streak of 18 Test matches until Chicago. It even seems like an offensive suggestion to Kaino that they required the beating to find their game face. The All Black franchise never bounces back because the All Blacks never hit the ground.

“Exactly,” says Kaino. “We try and create that edge and try and get the guys bums on the edge of the seats. The coaches and the coaching staff and everyone in the environment try and create that. When you get comfortable you stop working on the little things and it starts with us leaders and it filters down throughout the team.

“I hate to say it,” he adds, “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 in this environment. 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. There’s a little bit of a nervous edge to the team given what happened in Chicago, knowing that we let ourselves down.”

Kaino knows time is limited and maybe these games are more important now because they are becoming fewer. He will eventually give way to the next readymade backrower that falls off the conveyor belt.

“They were menacing, very strong with ball in hand and direct,” he says flattering Ireland, before namechecking Keith Wood and Brian O’Driscoll. A deliberate slight on the current team?

Never, not from an All Black.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times