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'A free trial': How Jake Kerr curiously went from unwanted Leicester hooker into the thrust of Bristol's Premiership title battle

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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It was yet another strange development in this strangest of rugby seasons, the sight of Jake Kerr, the one-cap Scotland hooker, getting thrust into action last Saturday for Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol just weeks after Leicester released him from a situation where he had only appeared once for Tigers in the league this term. 

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March 20 at Exeter was when 25-year-old Kerr was seen for the only time this season in Premiership action    for Leicester, the front-rower coming off the bench for the last eight minutes of that Sandy Park defeat. Thirty-three days later, Tigers announced they had granted him early release from his contract.

It sounded like quite a rejection for player who had been at the club since 2017, making 46 appearances in total. However, within 16 days of exiting Oval Park, he was wearing the Bears No16 jersey and playing 22 minutes in place of Bryan Byrne in their comeback derby victory at Bath, leaving Bristol boss Pat Lam felling chuffed that his latest punt on rescuing a talent in the doldrums had paid off. 

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“We got told he was getting let go by Leicester,” said Lam, explaining how the unwanted Tigers front-rower so quickly changed his Premiership colours at a time of the year when it is unusual for a player to make this type of a switch.

“Alasdair Dickinson obviously knew him and we got a couple of other people here who knew him. We had a look and we got rung by his agent to see if he could come on a free trial, so he came in for a couple of weeks initially and he played in a friendly game and looked good enough for us to say, ‘alright, let’s give him a chance on the bench’. 

“Will Capon had a shoulder niggle that possibly he could have played but it allowed us to give Will a chance that was 100 per cent – which it is for this week (against Gloucester on Monday) and Jake got in and did well and that is all you can do. It’s what I want, coachable, hard working players and at the moment he is ticking that box so he strengthens that number.”

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Kerr, who earned his sole Scotland cap versus Italy in 2019, is now staying at Bristol until the end of a season where Harry Thacker has been a long-term injury absentee. Asked last September about his own career-making move from Leicester to the Bears, Thacker told RugbyPass: “To have someone backing your corner and looking out for the best interests of the individual as well as the team is pretty cool.”

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'A free trial': How Jake Kerr curiously went from unwanted Leicester hooker into the thrust of Bristol's Premiership title battle

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