Former All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino said wearing the black jersey again was the main reason for his upcoming return to the Blues.
Former All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino has revealed that wearing the black jersey again was the main reason for his return to the Blues.
Kaino has played in Japan for the past two years and the success of his Toyota team in the play-offs will determine when he returns to Auckland.
Blues boss John Kirwan is expecting him in mid to late February – and the player, who gained a reputation as arguably the world's best blindside flanker during his stint with the All Blacks, believes he still has what it takes.
“It's a huge reason why I chose to come back,'' he told New Zealand's Radio Sport.
“There's still a burning desire to play for the All Black jersey.''
When asked whether he had a starting spot or bench role in mind, Kaino replied: “When you strive to be in the All Blacks you definitely want to hop on the field and get that starting spot.''
Kaino, who left New Zealand carrying a shoulder problem, said his body was fine, though he admitted it could take time to get used to the rigours of Super Rugby again.
“I'm probably not as strict as I was before I left but in saying that I've had the freedom to be able work on the weaknesses in my game,” he added.
“The competition I've been exposed to here probably isn't as rigorous as it is at home.
“It took me a long time to get to me where I was there,'' he said of his World Cup form.
“Obviously when I get back I probably won't be able to hit the road running and start from where I left, but everything is a challenge… obviously when I take the field next in New Zealand everyone is going to compare me to when I last took the field in New Zealand which was in the World Cup.
“It's up to me to put my head down and work hard.''
Kaino said the poor track record of former All Blacks returning from stints overseas and trying to reach previous heights is not bothering him.
“People have spoken about if a few times but I haven't really given it too much thought,” he explained.
“I look at it in a case by case scenario. I'm not reading too much by what's happened in the past.''
The 30-year-old said his family had returned to Auckland and he was living out of a suitcase, adding he would be happy to be available straight away for the Blues.
“I'm pretty happy to hop straight into things but it all depends on the structures I have to learn and where I fit into the team.
“Physically I feel very good, but in terms of being up to pace of the Super 15 or internationals, I'm not too sure, I'll probably find out in that first game I play.''