All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino says that Saturday’s Test series decider against the British & Irish Lions feels like a World Cup final.
Kaino helped New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2011 and 2015, starting the finals at Eden Park and Twickenham.
And he now returns to Eden Park, where New Zealand are unbeaten for 39 Tests, with a pulsating series on the line.
“With it being 1-1, it does have the feeling of a World Cup final, so I am getting excited about the prospect of being able to play,” Kaino said.
“It definitely has that feel. I think the excitement we had at training today backs that up.
“The Lions are a great side, and there is a lot of history between these two teams. There has definitely been a bit of edge there [in training], but the guys are excited.
“We know the areas we need to improve on, and we know if we do that, then we will get the result we want.”
Jerome Kaino Phil Walter/Getty Images
Kaino had an unexpected view of the second Test, watching 55 minutes of it from the sidelines after he was taken off and replaced by back Ngani Laumape in an attempt to compensate for centre Sonny Bill Williams’ red card.
“I saw the Lions definitely step up in terms of physicalitty, and I thought we matched that at times,” he added.
“Guys adapted on the go, and that was a positive for us. If we start the way we want to start in games, then we will go a long way to winning. It was a great game to be a part of and watch.”
Both sides were guilty of discipline lapses in Wellington — Williams’ red card and Lions prop Mako Vunipola’s sin-binning for an illegal challenge on Beauden Barrett — and Kaino accepts that staying legal will be a key part of Saturday’s contest.
“As you saw last weekend, both teams were quite keen to get amongst it,” he said. “As we saw, discipline is a huge part of the game.
“We are not going to go in there and be cautious about anything. We have to impose ourselves physically like the Lions did, and that’s definitely an area we want to improve on.
“I am sure they will improve, but we have to make sure we keep our discipline.
“We know a lot of things are spoken about in the week, but that’s not a reason for us to hold back. We know we can play physically within the laws. We will let the referee interpret things how he sees them and do our job.
“There is always going to be feeling between these two teams. When we cross the white line we throw it out there, but once it’s over, we dump it.”
Kaino, meanwhile, was asked if he was surprised the Lions had opted for a couple of days’ rest and recuperation in the Southern Alps’ tourist haven of Queenstown before heading to Auckland on Wednesday.
“I am sure it’s not three days off, I am sure they’ve put some training in there somewhere,” he added.
“If that’s what they think gets the best out of their players, then good on them. For us, we’ve got a lot of improvements we want to make, so we’re worrried about what we want to do.”
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Kaino: Series decider feels like RWC final
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