TOBY ROBSON IN CARDIFF - Fairfax Media
They are becoming difficult to avoid.
Three big men, three big work loads, three reasons why there is nowhere to hide when you play the All Blacks.
The All Blacks' omnipresent six, seven and eight have done a heap of tackling, running, offloading and cleaning rucks during the past four weeks.
At times against the Irish it appeared one of 100kg plus frames of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read or Jerome Kaino were involved in every play as they combined for 27 tackles, or 36 per cent of the All Blacks' total.
In times of old loose forwards were never far from each other as they looked to dominate the breakdown by cleaning out defenders or competing for possession.
Nowadays even the backs can perform those roles meaning the loose trio can spread themselves around.
"The more work you do leading up to the game during the week makes it a lot easier on the field," Kaino explained yesterday. "We catch up a lot, Richie, Reado and Liam [Messam]. On this tour we've just talked about how we can improve from past weeks and how we can spread our influence on the field without being in the same place at the same time."
It's not about splitting the field into thirds, or watching the other two loose forwards as being smart about where you are needed and how you can contribute, Kaino said.
"I think this tour we've really worked on it and made good steps in the right direction. We have our game plan and that's what we talk about during the week, the moves and the themes we have during the week and we talk about how we can spread ourselves out."
The trio has become part of the furniture in the past two seasons since Read eased past Rodney So'oialo as the incumbent test No 8.
This season they have started 10 of the 13 tests together. The three exceptions were the second June test against Wales when Kaino was injured, the Sydney Bledisloe Cup where he replaced Victor Vito and two weeks ago when Liam Messam played blindside against Scotland.
"I hated it, not being in there," Kaino said. "But it just shows how much influence Kieran and Richie have and how tight we can be because Liam just jumped in there and it was like he'd been playing there all season.
"The way they play just complements whoever slots in next to them."
But while McCaw and Read get most of the kudos, it was Kaino who got the team applause before training in Bath yesterday after topping the charts following the review of the win over Ireland.
The 27-year-old does admit he's happy with his form, something he credits to a stern talk from the All Blacks coaches during the Super 14.
"It was huge for me. I think they had been drumming that message for a couple of seasons with me, but it just never really registered. That consistency message came across loud and clear when they came to visit. I'm really trying to work hard on it and here I am on the other side.
"I'm feeling fresh. They gave me a week off in Scotland and I can't wait to get back into it. It's the home straight this weekend too, so you get to go home and see the family and its summer."