Smaller Kaino adjusting to new life in Japan
James Mortimer 30 Dec 2012 Getty Images
Indeed, while the All Blacks season was one to remember, one wonders what sort of steel Kaino could have added to the All Blacks arsenal at stages throughout the year.
However Liam Messam has taken his chance with a great season playing at number six, taking a dramatic step up in how he imposes himself physically, even if ironically Kaino has had to do the opposite.
Speaking to the NZ Herald, Kaino said the Japanese style was super quick.
"It's such a fast game here and it took a lot of getting used to," the 2011 New Zealand player of the year said.
"I have always liked to play a physical, power game but it's difficult if the ball has already left the ruck when you get there."
"Over here, I am not really a traditional No 6 - I play more like a No 8 - or as (fellow Toyota team-mate) Stephen (Brett) would say, like a back, as I spend so much time in the backline."
Toyota are currently fifth in the Top League, and while they may not be able to win the Top League, they have improved on their performance last season, and Kaino has been part of that gradual improvement.
"I was brought here to change things, not only to get results but also change how the team plays," says Kaino.
"They wanted more presence up front and for me to combine with Stephen at 10."
Kaino said he had been a keen observer in the battle for the All Blacks blindside position.
"Both Liam and Victor have been playing awesome," he said.
"It has been healthy competition but it looked like Liam has nailed it down. I talk to him every now and again and he's doing well."
As for his future in New Zealand rugby, Kaino said he wouldn't remind returning home.
"Hopefully - I'd love to come back (to the Blues)," he said.
"It's all about getting my body right and then challenging for that spot - if they want me. We'll see what happens. I know a lot of the young boys in the (2013) squad; they are good players and will go well next year.
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