Wellington - All Black Jerome Kaino on Tuesday rejected
allegations he maliciously targeted British and Irish Lions scrumhalf Conor
Murray and predicted a backlash from the tourists after their first Test loss.
Lions coach Warren Gatland said after the 30-15 defeat that
players were recklessly diving at Murray in a dangerous manner that could cause
a career-ending injury.
The comments, dismissed as "desperate" by All
Blacks coach Steve Hansen, put Kaino under the spotlight as he crashed into
Murray early in the game while the Irishman was kicking.
The flanker said he was trying to disrupt Murray's kick
"but my timing was off and I rolled into his planted foot".
"What's been said out there about malice and intention
to hurt anyone, that's never the case," he told reporters after being
peppered with questions about the incident.
The 79-Test veteran said he played hard but "within the
rules and the spirit of the game".
Asked if he had seen the incident since Saturday, he
replied: "It's popped up on my Twitter feed about a million times, so it's
a bit hard to avoid."
He said the furore sparked by Gatland's comments had not
affected the All Blacks as the world champions prepared for the second Test in
Wellington on Saturday.
"I don't think it bothers us what's going on outside of
our circle," he said.
Two-time World Cup winner Kaino said the Lions would be
hurting and desperate to respond after the loss in Auckland, where their
vaunted forward pack failed to meet expectations.
"Their team meetings and training will have a lot of
edge and lot of emotion... so we need to make sure that we turn the screw a lot
more in our sessions and expect a backlash from the Lions on the weekend,"
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said Gatland's
comments were just part of the hype in the lead-up to a big Test.
He said both sides tried to pressure kickers and "to
take it any further than that is just a bit silly".
Foster, a former Waikato team-mate of Gatland's, said the
All Blacks were used to visiting coaches taking potshots in a bid to put the
hosts off their stride.
"We don't take it as personal, it's just what some
people do," he said.
"If we start sulking about that then we're going to get
upset and distracted and isn't that the objective of it?
"So we've just got to stay in our own mind really clear
and focused about what we do and remember... it's about a game of rugby on
Saturday and we have to be ready."
The assistant coach said he and Gatland would forget any
differences after the third and final Test in Auckland early next month and
relax over a drink.
"We'll go hammer and tongs at each other but at the end
of the third Test hopefully we'll sit down and have a beer together and a yack
about it," he said.