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‘Tried to get away’: How World Cup heartbreak changed Luke Jacobson

By Finn Morton
Luke Jacobson of the All Blacks attends the New Zealand welcome ceremony at Cour Haute de l’Hotel de Ville ahead of the Rugby World Cup France 2023 on September 01, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Four years ago, Luke Jacobson flew to Japan as a relatively unknown rugby talent with plenty of promise and potential. Jacobson was the All Blacks’ headline-grabbing World Cup bolter.


Jacobson was a surprise inclusion in the star-studded squad, but had just made an impressive cameo off the pine in the All Blacks’ final World Cup warm-up match against Tonga.

There was an element of intrigue and anticipation surrounding Jacobson’s World Cup debut. The 22-year-old made a rapid rise to All Blacks status, and was set to make his mark on rugby’s biggest stage.

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But Jacobson’s World Cup was over before it even began.

With his lifelong dream within reach, the two-Test All Black was sent home after exhibiting symptoms of “delayed onset of concussion.” The loosie picked up the knock against Tonga.

Jacobson was replaced by enforcer Shannon Frizell, and the All Blacks went on to make the semi-finals of the tournament. Meanwhile, back in New Zealand, Jacobson had to “get away from footy.”

“Very exciting getting to head over there (Japan) and I was looking forward to getting stuck into a few games. It’s a pretty small squad so you’ve got a decent chance to play a few games here and there,” Jacobson told RugbyPass last month.

“I got a knock in the game before I headed over and just wasn’t sure how bad it was so I headed over anyway.



“Ended up hanging around and lingering which was really, really disappointing getting sent home. Pretty tough news to take but ended up having to head home and just get away from footy for a bit.

“Look, it was pretty tough but I guess at the end of the day injuries are part of it. I was just very unfortunate to get one at pretty much the perfectly wrong time.

“I headed home and I just got away from rugby for the next 2-3 months, didn’t really watch any of it. I purely tried to get away, hang out with my mates, get to the beach, that sort of thing.”

Injuries plagued Jacobson’s development and growth as a rugby talent throughout the World Cup cycle. The dynamic forward went almost two years without playing for the All Blacks.


Jacobson missed out on New Zealand’s squad for last year’s end-of-season tour, with coach Foster picking six loose forwards in the 35-man squad.

Skipper Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Dalton Papali’i and Ardie Savea were all picked in the initial squad.

Akira Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu also got the nod for the Northern Tour, but the talented duo weren’t selected a year later in the World Cup squad.

But Jacobson was. Now with 15 Tests to his name, the Chiefs enforcer has done enough to impress All Blacks selectors ahead of the tournament in France.

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Four years on from the disappointment of the 2019 tournament, Jacobson is fit and ready to go ahead of the upcoming World Cup in France.

“At the end of every four years your goal is to go to the World Cup, and the goal of any end-of-year (tour) is to make the All Blacks and I missed out last year,” Jacobson added.

“It was obviously not ideal but probably made me just a little bit more hungry at the start of this year to make sure I was right at the top of my game right from the start of the season.

“With four years comes a lot more experience. I probably understand the game a little bit better now.

“I feel a lot more comfortable playing at this level. At that time I’d only played one game and it was only 25 minutes or something.

“I’ve got another (15)  games now so I feel pretty comfortable there.

“I guess I’ve probably grown across the board to be honest. I think I was pretty reckless with some of my tackling, probably a little bit more sound there.

“Around the set-piece work, I’ve probably grown a little bit around my lineout work. There’s probably quite a few things to be honest.”


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B.J. Spratt 291 days ago

It was a shame Blackadder got injured. Once again we are short on World Class Props and Loose Forwards.

I remember before the last World Cup when Australia beat us 40 something in Perth.

Their props made 17 runs and the AB. props made 3.

That was the case in the 2019 World Cup against England.

Is it our "Stocks" that are low or are we just aren't developing our young players.

I think the Crusaders System needs to be replicated throughout New Zealand Franchises.

You watch a Crusaders game and you say, "Where did he find that player" then you find out he's been in the Crusaders System since he left school.

Utiku Old Boy 291 days ago

Didn't rise to the SA game in England but few forwards did. Seems to go missing a bit and compared to Blackadder (who was on the rampage last week), does not intimidate serious opposition. LJ should be playing at eight in this team with a bigger lineout option at six. I don't see our loose forwards handling France, Ireland or SA at this RWC.

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