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Luke Jacobson and Jono Gibbes ready to turn Waikato's fortunes

Waikato loose forward Luke Jacobson is confident that Jono Gibbes is the man to turn the side around in the Mitre 10 Cup.

The province – relegated to the competition’s Championship division after winning just two games last year – will be under the guidance of former Waikato and All Blacks flanker Gibbes for the 2018 season.

“I’ve only been in there for a couple of days but already, you notice his [Gibbes] influence on the team,” Jacobson said. “[He] seems like a very knowledgeable man.”

“I think he’s going to be really good for the team this year, a lot of knowledge and I’m looking forward to learning off him.”

Captain of the New Zealand Under 20 side in 2017, 21-year-old Jacobson is coming off a strong first year of professional rugby. The flanker made his Waikato debut last season and made 13 appearances for the Chiefs Super Rugby side this year, where he was one of the club’s top defenders. He finished his rookie campaign ranked fourth on the team in made tackles (109) and tackled at 91.7%, second highest among Chiefs forwards.

“I learned a lot from my Chiefs campaign this year. It was a good bit of fun as well, I was lucky enough to get out there on the field,” he said.

“Carrying that into Mitre 10, I’ve just got to try keep emulating that sort of high standard at the Super Rugby level.

“Hopefully I can try and bring what we had at the Chiefs to the Waikato and lift our Waikato team to get along a bit better this year.”

The team is hoping to bounce back from a down year, and have been bolstered by several new additions to the team, while still carrying some exciting familiar faces in their 37-man squad named Thursday.

“We back ourselves to be a good battling province I’d say,” said Jacobson.

“We’ve got the likes of Sevu Reece who’s always a pretty electric player. We’ve got a new first five Fletcher Smith who’s going to be exciting, he’s looked good in training.

Tim Bond in the forwards, he’s new to us and he’s going to be good for us. Also the likes of Toby Smith back and James Tucker’s still going to be there.”

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21-year-old Fijian winger Reece is back for his third Mitre 10 Cup campaign before he heads to Ireland where he will join PRO14 side Connacht. Highlander Fletcher Smith joins the team after spending three years with Otago, while Wallaby prop Toby Smith rejoins the province following a strong campaign with the Hurricanes.

The club also welcome Crusaders halfback Jack Stratton, while former New Zealand Sevens representatives Kylem and Declan O’Donnell return to Waikato after spending time with Taranaki.

Waikato begin their 2018 Mitre 10 Cup campaign on August 18 when they take on Manawatu in Palmerston North.

WAIKATO 2018 MITRE 10 CUP SQUAD

Forwards: Sefo Kautai, Toby Smith, Ayden Johnstone,Josh Iosefa-Scott, Haereiti Hetet, Atu Moli, Samisoni Taukeiaho, Sekope Lopeti-Moli, Mike MayhewLaghlan McWhannell, James Tucker, Sam Caird, Tim BondJono Armstrong, Luke Jacobson, Mitch Jacobson, Adam BurnJordan Manihera, Jahrome Brown, Murray Iti.
Backs: Raniera Takarangi, Kylem O’Donnell, Jack Stratton, Matty Lansdown, Fletcher Smith, Damian McKenzie, Bailyn Sullivan, Quinn Tupaea, Pepesana Patafilo, Dwayne Sweeney, Anton Lienert-BrownMosese Dawai, Jordan Bunce, Niven Longopoa, Sevu Reece, Declan O’Donnell, Tyler Campbell.

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Luke Jacobson and Jono Gibbes ready to turn Waikato's fortunes | RugbyPass