Kaino stands his ground over Mur­ray tackle

Flanker said he was try­ing to dis­rupt Ir­ish­man’s kick

The National - News - Sport - - RUGBY UNION -

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.

Brett Phibbs / AP Im­ages

All Blacks loose for­ward Jerome Kaino, right, up­ended Lions half-back Conor Mur­ray dur­ing the first Test match.

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