By Gregor Paul
Given the scrummaging threat the Pumas pose, Jerome Kaino was more than a little happy to see Luke Romano recalled to the All Blacks bench for Saturday’s test.
As much as Argentina have developed their attacking ambition and built a more expansive approach to the game, they remain convinced that the scrum is what rugby is really all about.
If they aren’t the best scrummaging side in the world, then it is hard to know which nation would be and the All Blacks have all but conceded that by putting a specialist lock on their bench for the first time in this year’s Rugby Championship.
Against the Wallabies, there were two loose forwards as cover with Kaino having to slip into the second row in Wellington for the final 15 minutes.
It’s a role he was first assigned last year and one that he has selflessly and quite impressively executed. But he’s honest enough to admit that he doesn’t have a natural love for it.
“It was quite funny when Liam [Squire] came on [against the Wallabies],” says Kaino.
“I thought he was going to come on for me and then he told me to go to lock and it just so happened we had four consecutive scrums right in their 22.
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“But it was good. I don’t mind getting in there just as long as I am out on the field. Playing against Argentina, though, who love to scrum and scrum for a long time…I am happy to see a specialist on the bench. Very happy.”
It’s the scrummaging that makes life tough. Kaino is a quality lineout operator and the way the All Blacks play, all forwards are expected to be able to carry the ball, pass, tackle, clean-out and make good decisions in the wider parts of the field.
But the difference between packing down in the middle row compared with the side of the scrum, is vastly different from both a physical and tactical perspective.
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“For the tight five you do have to work harder than the loosies do at scrum time,” he says.
“You have to give everything in the scrum and then to get up and figure out what part of the field you are on and where to be, it is quite tough but part of the job I guess.
“I just have to have time in that position to get used to it. At the moment I’m used to the side of the scrum where you can get off a lot easier. When you are stuck between a hooker and a prop and you are trying to get your head out of there it is tough.
It puts it into perspective how the tight five operate and what they have to do to get through a game.”