As Steve Hansen’s 31-man World Cup squad was announced at Eden Park in Auckland on Wednesday, one name that stood out among the rest was that of 22-year-old loose forward Luke Jacobson.
The Waikato and Chiefs starlet is one of five loose forwards selected in the All Blacks side for the tournament in Japan next month off the back of just 23 minutes of international rugby against Argentina last month.
While he is renowned for his high work rate, imposing defensive capabilities and versatility across the back row, his inclusion in the squad still came a surprise to many, with plenty of pundits tipping star flanker Liam Squire to win a re-call back into the national side.
However, with Squire reduced to being a potential replacement player if called upon, a spot opened up for Jacobson to retain his place in the squad, even with just one test cap to his name.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve had one or none or a 100, I guess if you’re good enough you should be available for selection and hence why we have done that,” Hansen said of Jacobson at the squad naming at Eden Park.
“He’s got good leadership skills, defensively he’s one of the best hitters in the game, he’s a good ball carrier and he’s a smart rugby player, so we think he’s got a big future.”
The rise of Jacobson to the World Cup team could see him earn substantial game time in the No. 6 jersey in the absence of Squire.
Jacobson, Savea, Cane and Read are all joined by Crusaders openside Matt Todd as the five loose forwards in the New Zealand side, which will look to make history as it hunts an unprecedented third straight World Cup title.
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