"Got a Good Trio" - Luke Jacobson: Underhill, Cunningham-South and Ben Earl stunned All Blacks back row - Ruck

“Got a Good Trio” – Luke Jacobson: Underhill, Cunningham-South and Ben Earl stunned All Blacks back row

The All Blacks have certainly taken note of England’s high-tempo blitz defence, with back-row Luke Jacobson eyeing up the threat ahead of Saturday’s Test. New Zealand take on Steve Borthwick’s men for the second Test of the series, with Eden Park set to host the finale to England’s Summer campaign.

A major talking point of the tour has been England’s defensive line-speed, with Felix Jones accredited for implementing the system of intensive pressure. The former South Africa coach has had his work with England compared to standard of the Springboks, with Scott Robertson previously expressing how impressed he has been by the brutal pace of the defending. Luke Jacobson echoed his head coach’s comments, and laid down the marker on how the All Blacks plan to battle back against the blitz.

“Yeah, look, they have real fast defensive line. So we’ve got to be able to combat that. And they rush in. And we’ve got to be able to hold our feet and get the ball to where we want it to go. Punch in behind them and it’s the same on attack, they’ve got quite a good kicking game, pressure and push to the ball. So it’s pretty key that we get back in, blocked them out and don’t give them any snaps on it.”

“Those ones are the ones you want to come with a win. Those tight and scrappy ones that could go either way. But you take a lot of confidence out of those ones and reflect on the week, the energy from the week comes a little bit differently, being able to be on the back of a win as opposed to a loss. But on the same side of that England will be looking at the game a little bit harder and looking at different ways that they can expose us.”

It is not just England’s defensive line speed that has been garnering Jacobson’s attention, as the back row was put to the test in the ever-competitive breakdown. The ruck was described as a definitive bun fight following the encounter in Dunedin, with neither England or the All Blacks opting to stand off and set themselves for the following phase of play.

Sam Underhill of England during the Autumn Nations Cup match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on November 21 2020. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Jacobson was tested by the England back-row, as the trio of Ben Earl, Sam Underhill and Chnadler Cunningham-South all had solid outings at the ruck, with Tom Curry rounding off the evening’s efforts with an intense lift of tempo. Expressing his thoughts upon how England and New Zealand jostled relentlessly for dominance at the breakdown, Jacobson added;

“I was a focus last week as well. We maybe missed the beat there a little bit. We were under a lot of pressure at the breakdown and it’s going to be key for us this weekend to win the race, and to not give them any daylight particularly on re-cycling. Get in there nice and early.”

“They’ve got a good (back row) trio, whoever’s on the field was pretty impressive from defence, they’d like to get over the ball. I think they pride themselves on getting turnovers. So, a little bit more around our breakdown, being really early there. And it’s not just a loosey (loose forwards) thing, that’s a whole team focus.”

Jacobson has been apart of the All Blacks set-up for quite a while, since making his debut in the 2019 Rugby Championship against Argentina. The back-row was apart of the New Zealand squad that came away from the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final with silver medals, and witnessed the mass change over of coaching staff and players that would shortly follow.

The new look All Blacks have changed up their head coach, with former Crusaders boss Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson coming in to the fold for Ian Foster, following his seventh consecutive Super Rugby title. Also, the coaching staff witnessed the departures of Andrew Strawbridge, with the New Zealander now lining up against his former staff as he takes up an assistant role with England. Jacobson discussed the feeling of a clean slate around the All Blacks camp, having witnessed the end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.

“We’ve got a lot of new coaches, and they’ve got different ways in the way that they do things. Different ways that they want to play. There’s new terminology, new strikes (moves). Yeah, so it’s been a lot of adjusting. But as expected, there’s there’s been a lot of learning.

“So the first sort of couple of weeks have been pretty full on and trying to get them all the new content as second nature. But I think as the weeks go on, it will start to get a little bit lighter, because you don’t need to learn so much on the weekend. Just the new plays for the weekend.”

Head coach Scott Robertson laid down the marker for his first game in charge, as he named both Luke Jacobson and Beauden Barrett amongst the replacements. Razor explained how the decision to leave Barrett out of the starting XV was to do with his versatility in covering both fullback and fly half, with Jacobson possessing similar adaptability, as the loose forward is capable of covering both flanks and number eight from the bench.

“I was covering all positions on the weekend. So I was just ready to jump on whenever and wherever. It happened to be Samipeni (Finau – blindside flanker) who come off. So I went on there and I’ve enjoyed slipping in there.

“But I’ve got to be ready to jump on any positions. I enjoy, I get asked a lot which one I like the best, but I don’t really have a preference. They’ve all got slightly different elements that I enjoy all of them.”

“Ideally, I’d be starting. But look, I’m just happy to be part of the team and getting out there. That was a good time to come on (against England) I enjoyed that. And I’m trying to add influence at a crucial time of the game.”

Jacobson has again been named amongst the replacements to take on England, with the back-row set for another explosive involvement off the bench. The 27-year-old is taking a seat alongside a fellow Chiefs teammate, with scrum half Cortez Ratima set for his Test match debut should he be called upon. Ratima gets the nod to progress up the ranks, after TJ Perenara picked up a knee injury in the first Test down in Dunedin.

Robertson could not hide his excitement in how he’d like to see his Chiefs teammate get on the pitch, and expressed how the young halfback had been training intensively to get himself up to standard for his first Test match.

“He’s probably one of the hardest workers. He puts a lot of work when nobody’s watching. He’s grown heaps over the years but even when he first came in, you can see that he is going to be something special. Each year he just kept going and got better and better. So hopefully he gets that opportunity. I’ll be stoked for him and I’m sure he will take it with two hands.”