New Zealand Rugby has acknowledged All Blacks, Blues and Auckland loose forward Jerome Kaino who today confirmed he is leaving New Zealand rugby to take up a contract with Japanese club Toyota.
28–year–old Kaino, who has played 48 Tests for the All Blacks, has signed with the club for two seasons. Kaino, who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, had an option to end his contract following the Investec Super Rugby season which he has chosen to do.
NZRU CEO Steve Tew said: “On behalf of New Zealand rugby, we wish Jerome and his family well. He has been an outstanding New Zealand rugby player ever since his schoolboy days. We made a very strong bid to keep him here in New Zealand and would have loved for him to stay but, ultimately, we understand his decision.”
Auckland Rugby and Blues CEO Andy Dalton added: “Jerome has been a fantastic contributor to both Auckland Rugby and the Blues for many years. As a player, he has gone from strength to strength, particularly in the last couple of years, and I commend him on his achievements. I very much hope to see him back here one day in the Blues jersey – and the black one.”
All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen said while it was obviously disappointing that Kaino was leaving New Zealand rugby, he respected and accepted his decision.
“JK has been a key figure in the All Blacks for several years now and part of the backbone of the side. He is a top man and I have been lucky enough to see him grow and develop over his years in the black jersey.
“He will be missed but we wish him, his wife Di and their family all the very best, and we hope to see him back in New Zealand one day.”
Blues Coach Pat Lam said: “I have had the pleasure of coaching Jerome for nine years with Auckland and the Blues and to witness his growth as a man, husband, father and a rugby player has been inspiring.
“His tough decision to leave New Zealand rugby at his peak is an indication of his desire to look after his young family before himself and while it’s a big loss to the Blues and the All Blacks, I am thankful for his contribution and service to our team. For the moment, he still has a lot to offer the Blues during this season, even if it is not from on the field where his dominance will be missed, but as a leader in our group.”
Jerome Kaino has the rare distinction of playing for every New Zealand national side since first pulling on the black jersey for New Zealand Schools in 2001.
A devastating defender and skilled ball carrier, Kaino’s breakthrough year came in 2004 when he was named the IRB Under 21 Player of the Year, and made his Super Rugby, provincial and All Blacks debuts.
He has played 48 Tests for the All Blacks (scoring eight tries for 40 points), 85 matches for the Blues and 56 for his Auckland province.
He played all but one minute in the All Blacks successful Rugby World Cup campaign last year, was named player of the year at New Zealand Rugby’s Steinlager Awards and was a finalist for the IRB Player of the Year award.