Rugby: Struggle for jersey jolt Kaino needed

Jerome Kaino believes his gripping duel for the All Blacks No 6 jersey with Adam Thomson was the rugby jolt he needed.

Now he's got to take it on to Stade Velodrome and show his opposite, French skipper Thierry Dusautoir, that's he's learned a thing or two from their first clash back in June.

Kaino will play his 25th test on Sunday (NZT), but just his second start of this five-test tour after his power was preferred to Thomson's breakdown foraging and lineout work.

The pair's training ground duels stepped up a notch throughout the season and Kaino admitted his rival got the better of him.

"It's not that I was playing badly, I just didn't have that spark that I usually have," Kaino said.

"At trainings, Adam did, he had that hunger and that edge that the coaches were looking for. That's why he edged me out in Wellington.

"It was a bit of a reality check, that if you're not going to perform than someone else is going to take your spot. Having him there definitely gave me that extra push."

Thomson started back-to-back tests against Australia in Wellington and Tokyo, Kaino wore No 6 against Wales before Liam Messam stepped in against Italy and Thomson returned against England.

Kaino admitted he was surprised to get the call this week, but retained some hope after watching France physically demolish the Springboks and Samoa in the past fortnight.

"I knew that was my game, that physical game, and I sort of had an inkling that maybe I'd get my chance."

Kaino said his work at the breakdown and at lineout time were his work-ons in recent weeks, and he also admitted he'd like to get his hands on the ball more on Sunday.

Captain Richie McCaw and former test hardman Jerry Collins have been his playing ground role models as he has gone about perfecting his breakdown work this week.

"At trainings Richie and Adam definitely work hard on that, it's just a matter of practising, the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature in the game.

"Richie knows he's going to get smashed the majority of the time, but he still sticks his head in there and 90 percent of the time he comes out with the ball."

Kaino knows he, McCaw and Kieran Read will have their work cut out against a French loose trio led by Dusautoir.

It is only his second test against France after he returned from injury to play a part in the 14-10 win in Wellington in June, a week after their defeat in Dunedin.

"He's one of the best No 6's in the world. He's not a big man and he doesn't look like he's going to dominate you physically.

"When he goes into tackles he definitely hits hard. Give him a couple of seconds and you're not there, he'll steal your ball.

"He definitely punished us in Dunedin and he was a key factor in Wellington, why they kept fighting back."

Kaino was on the French tour but didn't play in 2004, but experienced the fervour of the home fans.

Assistant coach Wayne Smith, whose 2000 team lost a fiery test here, had warned the players to "expect the worst" from the hostile crowd, Kaino said.

He was excited about the prospect of a brutal forward battle.

"Judging by the way they played in Wellington they were really physical, but the boys and the coaches have been saying if they were that physical in Wellington, imagine what they're going to be like at home.

"They're going to be a different beast. We're expecting that."

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