New Zealand flanker Jerome Kaino insists there was no malice or intent behind his challenge on British and Irish Lions scrum-half Conor Murray.
Lions boss Warren Gatland believes Murray was illegally targeted by the All Blacks during the first Test in Auckland, and says they could have caused a career-ending injury.
“I never go into a game thinking that I am going to target someone and intentionally hurt them,” Kaino said.
“I just wanted to clear that up.”
Footage of Kaino’s 10th-minute charge on Murray, which shows the flanker clattering into the scrum-half’s standing leg, has been widely circulated on social media.
But Kaino, 34, says it was a “timing” issue rather than any attempt to deliberately cause harm.
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“I’ve seen it reviewing the game, and it has popped up on my Twitter feed about a million times, so it is a bit hard to avoid it,” Kaino added.
“I guess people have their opinions on it. All I can say is it wasn’t my intention to go out there and target his planted foot.
“What I was trying to do, his swinging foot, if you can disrupt that, it’s like an ankle-tap, so you disrupt the kick.
“My timing was off, and I rolled into his planted foot, and that’s what I believed happened.
“It is never nice when you have things done to you outside the laws, and the way we do things, it’s within the spirit of the game.
“It wasn’t my intention to hurt anyone, and to play outside the rules. I wasn’t cited. I don’t think I should have been.”
Gatland says he will speak to referee Jerome Garces about the All Blacks’ tactics ahead of the second Test in Wellington, and Kaino is aware the officials will be on red alert.
“Obviously, there is more attention being brought to it, and their kicking game is obviously a strength of the Lions,” Kaino added.
“We need to make sure we are on the right side of the law when we do things, and I thought I was there.”
Gatland v Hansen
Ahead of the potentially decisive second Test, the verbal jousting between the two camps has intensified, with Steve Hansen calling his counterpart Warren Gatland “desperate”.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Herald newspaper’s front page on Tuesday mocked-up a picture of the Lions coach as a clown.
“I wouldn’t like that,” said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, a long-standing friend of Gatland’s.
Foster added: “There are a few little issues floating around, but this is going to be a titanic Test match.
“When there is a lot of stake often there is a lot of noise around games. But at the end of the day it doesn’t change a thing. We have to prepare a rugby team to play on Saturday.”
And despite the animosity between the sides, Foster says the coaches will have a drink together after the third and final Test at Eden Park.
“I would love to, and I’m sure we will,” says Foster.
“But this is competitive. This is a huge series for us and for them.
“Everyone is trying to put everything on the line, that’s why everyone is trying to get an edge or upset the other team in whatever way.
“At the end of the day we will go hammer and tong at each other, and hopefully after the third Test we will sit down and have a quiet beer with each other. and have a good yak about it.”