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Mercer draws lofty comparison

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Todd Blackadder compares Zach Mercer to All Black great

Former All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder has made a lofty comparison for England back rower Zach Mercer.

Blackadder coaches Mercer at Premiership club Bath, and told The Daily Mail that he sees shades of Kieran Read in Mercer’s game.

“I see glimpses of a young Kieran Read with his footwork, timing and ball playing,” the former Crusaders coach said.

“He’s still a young kid, really. He’s got skills that other players don’t have and he’ll put on another 10 kilos, easily. He’s nowhere near the player he’ll be in two years.”

Blackadder coached Read during his seven-year stint in charge of the club.

21-year-old Mercer made his test debut against South Africa during the November window and captained England at the under-20 Rugby World Cup in 2017. At 1.9m and 109kg he is technically the smallest Number Eight in the England squad. Read is listed at 1.93m and 111kg, slightly bigger than Mercer.

“I’m not a physical specimen… Kieran Read isn’t either,” Mercer said.

“I’m never going to be 130kgs, running hard lines and boshing over people. That’s not how I play the game. Some people think they know it all and say “Look, his arms aren’t big enough” but I just take it on the chin.

“I’m 109kg now. I’m still young with a decent frame. If I can move fast at 119kg then I’ll be a happy man but I’m not just going to start living off McDonald’s.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mercer revealed he travels to New Zealand every year to visit family and thought about spending a season in the southern hemisphere.

“I wanted to go and have a year out and play rugby in New Zealand but Barry Maddocks, who was the academy manager [at Bath], and Stuart Hooper told me to give it a chance and a couple of weeks later I was starting my first game in the Premiership. If I look back now it was probably one of the best decisions I made.”

Mercer’s father Gary was born in Rotorua and played 21 tests for the New Zealand national rugby league team and spent 15 years playing for professional clubs in England.

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Todd Blackadder compares Zach Mercer to All Black great