Jerome Kaino still has the right to represent his national team, and all eyes will be on him during training this week, as the All Blacks prepare for their final Test on home soil of 2017.
New Zealand’s veteran flanker hasn’t been a part of the All Blacks since suddenly leaving the squad due to personal issues in August. After two weeks off, Kaino made a rare Mitre 10 Cup appearance for Auckland last weekend. And following that, was given the all clear to return to the All Blacks this week.
Kaino’s original reason for leaving was officially down to personal issues, and it came shortly after Australian news outlet The Daily Telegraph claimed Kaino had had an extra marital affair with an Australian model.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) haven’t commented anything of real substance other than it was a ‘moral issue’ in regards to Kaino. That statement confirming earlier reports that Steve Hansen and fellow members of All Black management wanted to give Kaino time to “get into the right headspace”.
Jerome Kaino Still Has The Right To Represent All Blacks
Just on a month later, Kaino is back in training and there is every chance he could feature for the All Blacks at QBE Stadium on Saturday night. In fact, the argument could be made that Kaino should play against the Springboks.
In all reality, Jerome Kaino’s place in the team is far from doubtful. In fact, the direct opposite.
The 33-year old remains a crucial part of the All Blacks leadership group, and his experience will be crucial to up n’ coming stars like Vaea Fifita and Liam Squire. Yes, competition between the three will still be rife, but Hansen will still look to and expect Kaino to be a mentor to his younger rivals.
What more does Kaino have to prove in the All Blacks? Very little. Just look at his record.
A Rough Circle, and Big Test for NZR Attitude
The problem for Kaino now is similar to that of Aaron Smith’s this time a year ago. It isn’t a question of if, but when the right time to return to the International stage actually is.
NZR will play a part in Kaino’s selection, and in an ever-careful scenario, a decision will be made that doesn’t always have the desired outcome for a player.
Following a highly profiled, yet personal matter such as the one Kaino was involved in, everything becomes magnified that little bit more. If Kaino plays badly upon his return to the All Blacks, critics will say the flanker “isn’t mentally ready”.
It’s a rough circle, but Jerome Kaino should be judged on nothing but his game. And for All Blacks fans it’s that game, that ability, that constant well-rounded execution, and ultimately his experience which should matter more, come selection time.
“Main photo credit”