All Blacks never comfortable against 'Pooper'

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The All Blacks won’t feel comfortable against Australia’s Pooper combination no matter how many times they play, backrower Jerome Kaino says.

The ‘Pooper’ made its starting debut against the All Blacks in Sydney last year, inflicting the All Blacks’ most recent loss.

New Zealand looked to have countered their threat when it came to the World Cup final, restricting the pair in that match.

Kaino said a year on from that, the duo was no less of a danger.

Michael Hooper is a major threat for New Zealand. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley"They're not the biggest men but they never shirk their responsibility and in the breakdown area they’re the world’s best at pilfering and slowing the ball down,” he said.

“It’s a huge threat and I don’t know if you ever feel comfortable against that combination, they offer something different all the time.

“Whoever they pick in their loose forwards there’s going to be different styles of player but definitely that Hooper-Pocock combination is one to watch out for.”

The All Blacks come into camp on Thursday, nine days out from the opening Bledisloe match and Kaino said it would be a challenge to ensure the side gels quickly, despite the squad being largely unchanged from their June outfit.

“It’s hugely important having that one week together so you can get on top of that and gel as a team,” he said.

“The Wallabies have had time together to see what we can do and how we can do it, so it’s always dangerous when a side has that time together.

“It makes them a really dangerous side, especially with the first game at home in Sydney, we know we’ve got a challenge on our hands in the time we get together.”

Jerome Kaino played two Tests in June. Photo: Getty ImagesKaino’s biggest battle could be that within his own team, after making way for Elliot Dixon in the final Test against wales in June, despite two star turns in the preceding matches.

While Richie McCaw has departed the All Blacks back row, there’s no shortage of depth and Kaino said they would be pushing each other for those spots.

“It’s good for people to be vying for those positions,” he said.

“Me being an older fella, it keeps me on my toes and it’s good for our team also for each other to keep pushing.

“We have to keep each other on our toes with who they have in their loose forwards and we need to keep improving to be able to perform against the likes of Hooper, ( Scott) Fardy and even (Sean) McMahon - he’s been pushing for a spot - those guys are world class.”

The first Bledisloe is in Sydney on August 20, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST.