'Defensively, he's never been shy': Where Luke Jacobson will add impetus
The depth New Zealand possess in the loose forwards at present has seen Luke Jacobson restricted to just a solitary start for the All Blacks in 2021, but the big Chiefs number 8 has earned another run-on role for the side in tonight’s clash with the Pumas.
That opportunity comes partially due to a head knock suffered by Ardie Savea in last week’s win over the Wallabies, but there’s every chance Jacobson may have been handed the No 8 jersey regardless, given the unique talents he brings to the position.
After injuries curtailed Jacobson’s first elevation to the national squad in 2019, the 24-year-old returned to his best form this year throughout Super Rugby and was unsurprisingly named in the All Blacks for their July series.
Jacobson was a strong performer against both Tonga and Fiji but come the three-match Bledisloe Cup series, he was forced to play from the bench in the first two games, then sit the third out altogether, with a trio of Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii and Savea preferred.
Against Argentina in the third round of the Rugby Championship, Jacobson now has the chance to remind the world what he’s capable of.
While Australia were by no means lacking in physicality, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster expects Argentina to present an even tougher challenge in that area of the game – and Jacobson is tailor-made for that countering what the Pumas will bring to the fold tonight.
“I think they’re a well-organised team defensively,” Foster said on Friday. “They know how they want to play and they stick to that.
“They’ve clearly had a pretty tough road to get here with going to the UK and then going to South Africa and then coming into the same soft quarantine that we’ve been in – albeit they didn’t play a game last week. I can see them being pretty well-rested and very passionate about this game.
“Expecting a well-organised, passionate Argentinian team.”
Jacobson measures 1.91 metres tall and hits 107kg on the scales, making him the biggest loose forward the All Blacks currently have access to in Australia. He also has possesses a unique skill set.
Ardie Savea and Dalton Papalii may not have lasted the full 80 in Sunday's Bledisloe Cup victory, but the evidence was once again clear that the #AllBlacks have stumbled upon a golden loose forward trio. #AUSvNZL
Analysis from Nick Bishop ? https://t.co/rofebSdRr5
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) September 6, 2021
“We’re clearly playing against a team, their strengths [are] particularly in their loose forwards, locks and their directness,” said Foster. “And their breakdown work is an area that they work hard on [as well as] their ability to hold you up in the tackle.
“Luke’s ability with his footwork, to get weak shoulder and to win those collisions, he generally does it in a slightly different way to some other loose forwards. He’s not just a big power runner, but he’s got a lot of agility and [a] fend and offload that goes with that. So getting creative around that space.
“And then defensively, he’s never been shy in that space. The last couple of years, he’s been one of the more dominant tacklers that we have in New Zealand rugby so we’re excited about seeing that space.”
Last year, the Pumas scored a historic first-ever win over the All Blacks, with the NZ forwards bullied around the park by their Argentinian opposites. Two weeks later, the All Blacks had no troubles putting the Pumas to the sword, winning 38-0, but Foster will be conscious of not even presenting the opposition with an opportunity for repeating last year’s feats.
Jacobson, then, should serve the team well in that department.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 5:05pm AEST ahead of the match between the Springboks and Wallabies.
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