Super Rugby - Kaino a headless chicken but glad to be back in Blue

Former New Zealand flanker Jerome Kaino made his long-awaited return to Eden Park on Saturday but the 48-test veteran thought he resembled a headless chicken in his replacement role for the Auckland Blues.

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Super Rugby - Kaino stars as Blues beat Waratahs, Brumbies beat Chiefs
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Jerome Kaino

Kaino's 54th minute appearance off the bench was his first for the Blues since 2012 after a shoulder injury ended his season.

He then spent two seasons in Japan with Toyota before he signalled his intentions last year to return to New Zealand and attempt to make the All Blacks squad ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England.

"I thought the first 10 minutes I was running around like a headless chicken there," Kaino said in a televised interview after the Blues 40-30 victory over South Africa's Cheetahs.

"It was good the boys laid the platform for us and we were able to enjoy the game."

Kaino's path back into the All Blacks faces several hurdles, one being his Auckland Blues team mate Steven Luatua, who scored a try and was impressive in his work around the field and at the breakdown on Saturday.

"It's a good challenge and one that I'm enjoying," Kaino added. "I think I've still got a lot of work to do.

Kaino's performance, however, was not the only one under scrutiny on Saturday with fellow 2011 World Cup winner Ma'a Nonu also making his first appearance for the Blues this season.

Nonu's re-appearance for the Blues was delayed having undergone ankle surgery at the conclusion of the All Blacks northern hemisphere tour last November.

The inside centre controversially walked away from the Blues two years ago, apparently after having a handshake agreement with coach John Kirwan to return, before an ill-fated season with the Otago Highlanders in 2013.

The 88-test centre turned down a contract extension with the Highlanders and his inability to find a team for this season was one of the talking points of New Zealand rugby last year.

Kirwan, however, offered him a lifeline and many hoped he would repay that faith by finally performing after several years of indifferent displays at Super Rugby level before raising his game for the All Blacks.

High-profile rugby league convert Benji Marshall's lack of playing time is also a growing topic of conversation in New Zealand and he was given only a brief cameo to prove himself on Saturday when he was a 65th-minute replacement at fullback.

Kirwan had said after the narrow loss to the Lions last Saturday he would select the best possible side available each week as they tried to resurrect their season from a 1-3 record.

That has left little room for Marshall to cement himself in the side as he struggles to adapt to his new code after a glittering career in the 13-man game.

He is unlikely to supplant All Blacks utility Charles Piutau as the starting fullback despite a solid performance in the position last week against the Lions.

The 29-year-old, a standoff in rugby league, has also not been given the chance to start at flyhalf where Simon Hickey and Chris Noakes appear to be Kirwan's top two choices.

"I've probably had to be more patient than I expected, but that's all part of it," Marshall told reporters in Auckland this week.

"I always said to JK, if he didn't think I was up to the job to not put me in there and he's stuck to that."

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