Jerome Kaino eyeing All Blacks jumper
January 21, 2014
Jerome Kaino signed for the Blues with the All Blacks firmly in mind © Getty Images
Jerome Kaino hopes to play for the All Blacks once again, citing his ambition as "a huge reason why I chose to come back'' to New Zealand from Japan, but the back-rower concedes he "won't be able to hit the road running and start from where I left".
Kaino has signed a two-year deal to re-join the Blues once he has finished his Japanese Top League commitments with Toyota Verblitz, and he seems most likely to challenge Peter Saili for the No.8 jumper with Steven Luatua having established himself as a Test blindside.
The back-rower known for his brutal ball carrying left New Zealand with a shoulder injury after Rugby World Cup 2011, when he played the last of his 48 Tests in the final victory against France, and he believes he can still feature at that level despite having played for two years in a competition that "probably isn't as rigorous as it is at home".
"I'm probably not as strict as I was before I left but in saying that I've had the freedom to be able work on the weaknesses in my game," Kaino told Radio News in New Zealand on Tuesday".
"Obviously when I get back I probably won't be able to hit the road running and start from where I left, but everything is a challenge ... obviously when I take the field next in New Zealand everyone is going to compare me to when I last took the field in New Zealand, which was in the World Cup. It's up to me to put my head down and work hard."
Kaino said he still had "a burning desire to play for the All Black jersey", and as such he was definitely keen to claim a starting berth with the Blues. But he accepts he faces fierce competition to reclaim a Test jumper, with Liam Messam and Luatua becoming first and second choice for the No.6 position and Kieran Read unmovable from No.8 after being named World Player of the Year for his superb form in 2013.
"I'm pretty happy to hop straight into things but it all depends on the structures I have to learn and where I fit into the team," he said. "Physically I feel very good, but in terms of being up to pace of the Super 15 or internationals, I'm not too sure, I'll probably find out in that first game I play."
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