How Chiefs star Luke Jacobson is reinventing himself to become New Zealand's next great No 8
Luke Jacobson wants to run out at No 8 a lot more in his playing future that is destined to be within the Chiefs’ upper ranks moving forward.
The 23-year old’s exploits were pivotal in two key moments which aided the Chiefs to finally winning a game in Super Rugby Aotearoa. Scoring the late try to push his team in front, Jacobson also won the Chiefs a breakdown penalty which put the game beyond all doubt against a sorry looking Hurricanes in the capital.
“It was a big morale boost for the camp,” Jacobson told RugbyPass. “We all had good confidence in each other and it was talked about that we had what it took as a group and that it was only us that could change the results.”
There is no shortage of quality loose forwards in New Zealand rugby. The modern game states that these big men must be versatile, genuine ball players. These two aspects take equal weight to the engine room efforts in the scrums, lineouts, and vicious battles at the breakdown.
The modern No 8 is a genuine attacking ball carrier – whether that be off the back of a scrum or out wide in a style similar to that of former All Blacks captain Kieran Read, who really changed what it meant to be a loose forward – and a crucial cog to the defence at set piece.
Jacobson is relatively new to playing here specifically, but after three straight outings wearing the No 8 for the Chiefs, this is where he wants to be moving forward.
“It tends to be a bit more of a ball playing role,” Jacobson says. “I’ve really enjoyed it because it gives you a bit of a different aspect being at the back of the scrums, working with the nine [scrum half] and handling that attacking side of it”.
Keeping a keen eye on the 23-year old throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa shows that it’s a role the former New Zealand U20 captain is doing well at this point in time.
Jacobson has always loved the contact aspect of rugby but has never been able to nail down a position in the loose forwards.
Selection is a given when Jacobson is fit and rearing to go, but he has been a floater thus far, with his brute strength and keen awareness around the park being perhaps his most solid attributes.
“Seven to six to eight isn’t hugely different,” Jacobson admits.
“Defensively it’s all pretty similar but the running comes off the back of the scrum or off our launches and once we are in phase play it just depends on where us loosies end up so it’s all pretty similar.”
Shifting to the back of the scrum further re-enforces the fact that Jacobson is a handful with ball in hand. It’s important that this area of his game is developed, and
Chiefs forwards coach Neil Barnes has worked closely with Jacobson since his inaugural Super Rugby season in 2018 and stressed the Chiefs’ belief that consistent game time will allow everything else to fall into place in terms of the 23-year old’s long-term prospects.
“It’s exciting isn’t it,” Barnes told RugbyPass. “In any of the loose forward positions he’s [Jacobson] a good rugby player and he will only get better with more time on the paddock.”
Those prospects include Chiefs captaincy at some point in the future, something that is actively discussed behind the scenes, but for the here and now Jacobson is enjoying the luxury of being able to lace up the boots each week and isn’t thinking too far ahead.
“You don’t get to enjoy your rugby when you get injured because you don’t play,” Jacobson says. “It’s been bloody good to get out there week after week and the body is feeling really got so long may it last because I’m enjoying getting plenty of minutes.”
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