Sunday 22 September 2019

King Kaino not yet done

Jerome Kaino. Pic: Sportsfile
Jerome Kaino. Pic: Sportsfile

The big games are for big names. There is a special place reserved for Jerome Kaino among the pantheon of greats in the game, past and present.

The All Black loose forward first came to the attention of the Irish when beating out Jamie Heaslip for U21 World Player of the year in 2004.

It has been a long and illustrious road from Auckland to Toulouse, one that has included two World Cups in 2011 and 2015.

By the time Kaino ended his All Blacks career, he was ready for one final challenge.

Toulouse last lifted the French Top-14 title in 2012 and the European Cup in 2010.

The template for champions is something that has to be either learned from within, step by excruciating step, or imported through those who have been defined by winning.

Kaino has been employed to pass on his wisdom to a bunch of young guns, especially in the backline, who have revived memories of a glorious history.

The impact has been instant as Toulouse stand six points clear at the head of the French Top-14 table and are on the brink of their first Champions Cup final since the last time they won it.

"You get the sense that it's not just quality in terms of his ability, but a calmness and an experience that brings the best out of the young fellows," said Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster.

"They've just got a real good chemistry there and their results have shown that."

The veteran Kaino has been there and seen all of everything and there is every reason to believe there is enough left in the legs to drive Toulouse.

He can still deliver in the big games.

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