Kaino stands his ground over Murray tackle
Flanker said he was trying to disrupt Irishman’s kick
Jerome Kaino has rejected allegations he maliciously targeted British & Irish Lions scrum-half Conor Murray and predicted a backlash from the tourists after their first Test loss. Lions coach Warren Gatland said after the 30-15 defeat that players were recklessly diving at Murray in a dangerous manner that could cause a career-ending injury. The comments, dismissed as “desperate” by New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, put Kaino under the spotlight as he crashed into Murray early in the game while the Irishman was kicking.
The flanker said he was trying to disrupt Murray’s kick “but my timing was off and I rolled into his planted foot,” he told reporters after being peppered with questions about the incident.
“What’s been said out there about malice and intention to hurt anyone, that’s never the case.”
The 79-Test veteran said he played hard but “within the rules and the spirit of the game”.
Asked if he had seen the incident since Saturday, he replied: “It’s popped up on my Twitter feed about a million times, so it’s a bit hard to avoid.”
He said the furore sparked by Gatland’s comments had not affected New Zealand as the world champions prepared for the second Test in Wellington on Saturday.
“I don’t think it bothers us what’s going on outside of our circle,” he said. Two-time World Cup winner Kaino said the Lions would be hurting and desperate to respond after the loss in Auckland. “Their team meetings and training will have a lot of edge and lot of emotion ... so we need to make sure that we turn the screw a lot more in our sessions and expect a backlash from the Lions on the weekend,” he said.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said Gatland’s comments were just part of the hype in the lead-up to a big Test. He said both sides tried to pressure kickers and “to take it any further than that is just a bit silly”.
Foster, a former Waikato teammate of Gatland’s, said the All Blacks were used to visiting coaches taking potshots in a bid to put the hosts off their stride.
“We don’t take it as personal, it’s just what some people do,” he said. “If we start sulking about that then we’re going to get upset and distracted and isn’t that the objective of it?
“So we’ve just got to stay in our own mind really clear and focused about what we do and remember ... it’s about a game of rugby on Saturday and we have to be ready.”
The assistant coach said he and Gatland would forget any differences after the third and final Test in Auckland early next month and talk things over in a more relaxed environment. “We’ll go hammer and tongs at each other but at the end of the third Test hopefully we’ll sit down together and yack about it,” he said.
All Blacks loose forward Jerome Kaino, right, upended Lions half-back Conor Murray during the first Test match.