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All Black greats react to Super Rugby players being mic'd up

By Ned Lester
(Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chiefs have surprised fans this week with a rare insight into the on-field communication of two of their All Blacks in Damian McKenzie and Luke Jacobson.

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The club shared the footage – and audio – from their Super Rugby Pacific opening round fixture against the Crusaders, which was a rematch of last year’s final, on social media on Monday.

The clip was met with huge support from fans online who were excited to have greater access to their favourite players and their performances.

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All Black greats Jeff Wilson and Sir John Kirwan reacted to the footage on The Breakdown, labelling it a monumental win for fan engagement.

“I love it, fantastic, thanks to the Chiefs and the players,” Kirwan exclaimed. “What a great initiative, I love seeing things like that. From a rugby player’s point of view, it just makes a whole lot of difference.

“I thought the clarity of Jacobson’s captaincy when they were under pressure; ‘do these four things 10 out of 10 and we’ll be ok’; not cluttering it, I thought that was brilliant.

“The vision from Damian coming into the backline when he says ‘over the top’ and collects it, great vision.”

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Given New Zealand Rugby’s recent vows to be more fan-centric moving forward, the initiative certainly aligns with that ambition and the pundits called for it to be more widely adopted, something they claimed to have been pushing for for some time.

“I had a big impression of Jacobson, but actually listening to him being captain – because you don’t know, I’ve never heard Sam Cane talk on the field, I’ve never even heard Richie McCaw talk on the field, but there you go. Wow, good work.”

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At the Super Rugby Pacific launch event last week, Jacobson told RugbyPass his leadership style in close games would be mostly focused on handing out strategic advice, but he backed himself to motivate his squad if the game called for it.

“I wouldn’t see myself as an out-and-out motivational speaker, but I’d like to think I can get the boys up when needed. If they’re a little bit flat, let them know what they need to know,” he said.

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As it turned out, fans wouldn’t have to wait long to hear that leadership in action.

In a format similar to what other major competitions like the NBA and NFL offer, the Chiefs’ clip shows snippets of game footage and for the first time, the on-field communications that accompanied that action.

Perhaps the most interesting snippet from the footage was between the two mic’d up stars as they prepare to defend a Crusaders line-out strike. McKenzie takes the lead, organising and clarifying the players around him’s roles, while Jacobson reads the opponent’s attack shape and makes a prediction on the likely ball carrier.

The play unfolded as the captain anticipated and McKenzie ended up making the tackle on Crusaders forward Tom Christie who was running off Dallas McLeod’s shoulder.

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