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'Wasn’t a fun time': Luke Jacobson on being sent home before playing in 2019 World Cup

By Ned Lester
Luke Jacobson. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

In 2019, a 22-year-old bolter was selected in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad only to be sent home the week of the opening match due to an unresolved head injury.

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That young loose forward was Luke Jacobson, the Chiefs’ utility backrower who has gone on to overcome further injury setbacks to stake his claim as one of the best forwards in New Zealand.

Ian Foster and Jason Ryan have acknowledged Jacobson’s form just as Sir Steve Hansen did four years ag0 and this time around, the now 26-year-old is fit and firing ahead of the tournament.

“It’s awesome to be back here,” he told Stuff. “Obviously there were some good highs in 2019 and some pretty low lows of getting sent home and not being able to play a game.

“I guess I’m just proud, and also really excited, to be back here again. I’d say I’m probably a lot healthier than I was then which is good, so I’m looking forward to attacking it.

“It was not a happy place to be (heading home). It was something I’d dreamed of doing my whole life and then to have that taken away from me, it wasn’t a fun time at all.

“I got through it,” he added. “It wasn’t all doom and gloom. There are a lot tougher things that can go on in life than being sent home from a World Cup. I found other things to focus on, had a little bit of fun with my mates, took some time off and got back into it in 2020.”

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There’s no denying the damaging form Jacobson has enjoyed in 2023. Finally free from his multiple injury woes, he claimed the Chiefs’ No 8 jersey in Super Rugby, leaving Pita Gus Sowakula to battle it out for the blindside flanker role with Samipeni Finau.

While his opportunities in the All Blacks jersey so far in 2023 have been limited, with just five loose forwards travelling to France the Cambridge native is staying ready and benefitting from the more positive run of health he’s managed of late.

“You’re always adding to your game, always looking to get better,” he added. “I think I’m in a better spot than four years ago. The main thing is I’m feeling confident. [Four years ago] I was a little bit questioning my head, but I’m feeling confident with that now, haven’t had any problems over the last four years, so that’s a big tick and I can just worry about getting on the playing and training field and going as hard as I can.”

As for the All Blacks’ chances at the World Cup, Jacobson spoke on the positive momentum that the team is feeling after a winning start to the year.

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“There’s an awesome buzz among the boys. It’s hard to manufacture what wins bring. Winning builds the culture. There is also a great bunch of boys here and some great coaches who have got the team humming in the right direction.”

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