Sean O'Brien and Jerome Kaino re-live tackle that left the Irishman in a sling
'F***ing hell, mate, this is me done for the day!'
The respect between Sean O'Brien and Jerome Kaino has existed for a vast number of years but they never shared the same pitch until the 2017 Lions Tour to New Zealand.
Kaino and O'Brien are two of the best flankers of the past decade and a half, but timing, club rugby commitments and injuries saw them miss out on test their wits against each other in the heat of battle.
While Kaino beat Ireland in his first six Test matches for the All Blacks, four of them arrived before O'Brien was an established international. By the time O'Brien was a fixture in the Irish back row, a stint in Japanese rugby saw Kaino miss the four Test matches in 2012 and 2013.
Speaking with the two-time World Cup winner in Chicago, in 2016, Kaino expressed his surprise that O'Brien was not in Joe Schmidt's travelling squad for that historic Soldier Field encounter.
"Sean and Peter O'Mahony were a huge threat for us when you look at 2013 when we just beat them... Sean O’Brien was the spearhead of their physicality and their contesting at the breakdown."
The following summer, Kaino and O'Brien finally got to mark each other's dance cards in a thrilling Test Series that saw no quarter given. O'Brien scored a superb try in the First Test but ended up on the losing side, only to get one over Kaino & Co. in the Second Test.
O'Brien played superbly in that Wellington win, and Kaino had clearly singled him out for some extra oomph, if he got the chance, in the Test decider at Eden Park. Near the end of the first half, the Kiwi got his chance and delivered a crunching clear-out.
Speaking to O'Brien, when he was back in Ireland, after the drawn series, there was no hard feelings despite that Kaino tackle ending his match.
"Jerome is a really nice guy and a really hard player; tough," he recalled.
"We had a bit of a laugh at the end, 'You got me!' I said, and he got me good and fair. It was a tough one but he's a nice guy and I made sure to talk with him after... It was all good."
On the latest episode of House of Rugby UK, O'Brien and Kaino were reunited - albeit virtually - and got to reminisce on that fiercely fought Test Series... and that tackle.
"I've come off worse in that battle a few times. But that one, yeah... I had a little boney fragment floating in my shoulder. And I was like, 'Of all people!' The one person you don't want to hit you, going into a ruck, is Jerome Kaino.
"And he caught me on the sweet spot that day, in the Third Test. I was in the changing room at half-time going, 'F***ing hell, mate, this is me done for the day!'
"I had no power left in my arm. He's someone you'd want to be trying to avoid on the field. I'd rather be playing with him, to be fair. But we've always had a good catch up, afterwards, so there's never been any beef with us."
While that Kaino clear-out was all nice and legal, he did get sent to the sin-bin in the second half of a game the Lions drew 15-15 after being 12-6 behind.
"I felt so bad, after the game," Kaino recalled, "because I say Sean in the sling and I was like, 'Man, I'm so sorry'.
"I had known before that he had problems with the shoulder, and then seeing him in the sling, I was like, 'Awww man'."
Both men confirmed that the sling was nowhere to be seen at the post-match function, later that night, when both sides toasted the series. "I think it was the few pints that helped numb the pain," O'Brien joked.