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All Blacks lose key player hours out from Springboks clash

By Alex McLeod
Luke Jacobson has made a deserved return to the All Blacks in 2021. (Photo by Patrick Hamilton/Getty Images)

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The All Blacks have been forced to make a late change to their starting lineup just hours out from their Rugby Championship clash against the Springboks in Townsville on Saturday.

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After being named to start at No 8 for this weekend’s test on Thursday, Luke Jacobson has been withdrawn from the side after contracting a stomach bug.

The All Blacks announced the news, which has forced a reshuffle of the team’s loose forward trio, on their social media accounts just five hours before kick-off on Saturday.

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In Jacobson’s absence, captain Ardie Savea has been called upon to fill the void at No 8 after initially being named to start at openside flanker.

That has paved the way for test rookie Ethan Blackadder to come into the starting side at No 7 following his standout showing against Los Pumas in Brisbane last weekend.

Blackadder’s place on the bench has subsequently been taken by Hoskins Sotutu, another star in last week’s 36-13 win over Argentina at Suncorp Stadium.

The loss of Jacobson has stretched the All Blacks’ loose forward stocks as the Kiwis were already without in-form flanker Dalton Papalii due to a hamstring strain.

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It means the All Blacks only have four loose forwards available for the Springboks clash, which will be the 100th meeting between the fierce rivals.

However, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster told media on Thursday that Papalii was unfortunate to miss out on selection as he was only a couple of days off from being fully fit and ready to play.

The only other loose forward in Foster’s Rugby Championship squad, Shannon Frizell, is still in New Zealand playing for Tasman in the NPC after he struggled to gain entry into Australia due to visa issues as a result of the assault charges he faced earlier this year.

Despite having those charges against him dropped last week, Frizell hasn’t travelled to Queensland to link back up with the squad, but remains a possibility to travel with the All Blacks on their end-of-year tour of the United States and Europe.

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Should the All Blacks face any further setbacks in the loose forward department, lock Scott Barrett looms as a potential candidate to plug any gaps on the side of the scrum given his international experience as a blindside flanker.

The All Blacks need just one competition point from this weekend’s clash at Queensland Country Bank Stadium to secure the Rugby Championship title, while a win over the Springboks will secure them the Freedom Cup for 12th consecutive year.

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All Blacks lose key player hours out from Springboks clash

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