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'Something you dream of': Mercer to play against All Blacks XV

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Imagesges)

Zach Mercer, the likely 2023 World Cup call-up for England, will get an early chance to take on international opposition as he has been named in the Barbarians squad to face on an All Blacks XV in London on November 13. The French-based back row signalled his return to the Gallagher Premiership for the 2023/24 season by inking a deal with Gloucester on August 30.

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That agreement to come home from Montpellier next June will put the ex-Bath back-rower in contention to be chosen by Eddie Jones to train with England ahead of the World Cup finals in France. Mercer was twice capped in 2018 before tumbling back down the Test pecking order but his rejuvenated club form in France since his switch to the Top 14 in 2021 has grabbed the attention of Jones.

The Test coach even approached Mercer at the Heineken Champions Cup final last May in Marseille to enquire might the No8 sign a Premiership deal for the 2022/23 as that would have enabled England to pick him for the successful July series in Australia.

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Mercer told Jones he would have to wait another year before he would be available for England selection, but the back-rower will now get an early taste back on the international scene as he has agreed to link up with the Barbarians for their Killik Cup match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“I cannot wait to be pulling on that famous shirt in November. Playing for the Barbarians is something you dream of as a player – not just the matchday experience but the legendary players and coaches you work with, as well as the lifelong friendships you form,” said Mercer about the prospect of playing for a Baa-Baas team that will be coached by Ronan O’Gara and Scott Robertson.

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“My path has crossed with O’Gara in the Top 14 and he is a world-class coach. Being in a squad led by him and Scott Robertson is going to be such an awesome experience. Both of them are up there with the best coaches in the world and I’m sure I will learn a lot from them and the whole group of players who they bring together, both on and off the pitch.”

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Switching to his decision to join Gloucester, Mercer added: “To be given the opportunity to come back and play in the Premiership with Gloucester is one that I couldn’t turn down. The loyal fans and atmosphere at Kingsholm is something I can’t wait to be part of.

“Alex Brown, George Skivington and the whole coaching group are building a strong team and a great environment on the field, and I believe I can add a lot of value. I can’t wait. I have another season here with Montpellier and I’ll be giving all my focus to the club in trying secure back-to-back titles and European cup success.”

The match in London in November is the latest chance to see the Barbarians in action following a successful summer that featured emphatic back-to-back wins over England and Spain.

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