He was the All Blacks’ sacrificial lamb after Sonny Bill Williams’ sending-off, but veteran flanker Jerome Kaino says he can completely understand why he was substituted.
The 34-year-old was removed after just 26 minutes against the British and Irish Lions, making way for Ngani Laumape after Williams was given his marching orders for a high shoulder charge on Anthony Watson.
The move to slot Laumape in at second-five and play with seven forwards appeared to pay dividends, as the All Blacks gave themselves a nine-point second-half buffer.
But late tries to Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray, as well as a 78th-minute Owen Farrell penalty goal, condemned them to a 24-21 loss.
Kaino appeared upset as he exited the field for Laumape in what was his 80th Test match, but said post-game that he accepted the decision.
He made three tackles and a single carry before his substitution.
“To get our strikes going we need a full back line, and I kind of knew someone would have to go off,” Kaino told reporters.
“The coaches decided it was me. It was an early game, but you’ve got to trust what the coaches see and how they view things.”
Kaino added that Williams would likely feel despondent in the coming days, as the All Blacks’ attack stuttered in his absence.
He was certain Williams wouldn’t deliberately target Watson’s head.
The All Blacks, most likely without Williams, will now head to Auckland for next weekend’s series decider at Eden Park, and Kaino said he couldn’t wait to make amends for the side’s first home loss in eight years.
“It’s why you play the game, for these occasions,” Kaino said.