Rugby World Cup: All Blacks flanker Luke Jacobson primed to settle unfinished business in France after 2019 heartache

All Blacks flanker Luke Jacobson admits he's carrying a significant sense of unfinished business into this World Cup campaign in France..

The Chiefs enforcer was part of coach Steve Hansen's squad for the 2019 tournament, but was denied the opportunity to pull on the black jersey in Japan, after failing to recover from a concussion during a warm-up game against Tonga.

Jacobson recalls watching on from the stands at Yokohama, as a slightly bitter spectator for the All Blacks' opening match against South Africa.

Fast forward four years and Jacobson is crossing his fingers there will be a completely different set of emotions for this opener, where he's favoured to don the No.6 jersey for their heavyweight bout with hosts France at Stade de France on Saturday.

"I sort of had the carrot dangled in front of me last time around," said Jacobson. "Managed to stay around and watch the first game, which was cool, and see what it was all about.

"I imagine it's going to be a different beast being able to play in it and hopefully contribute as much as I can.

"Hopefully, I'll get a chance to play along the way, and really looking forward to just ticking that box and then look forward to what's ahead."

Luke Jacobson takes in the sights in Lyon.
Luke Jacobson takes in the sights in Lyon. Photo credit: Getty Images

Shannon Frizell seemed to cement the starting blindside flanker role with some standout performances to start 2023, but injury has opened the door for Jacobson to slot in as part of the run-on side.

He was named to make his first start for the All Blacks' final warm-up match against the Springboks at Twickenham, but saw less than 15 minutes of action, ending up as collateral damage of Scott Barrett's red-card departure.

Coach Ian Foster was forced to pull Jacobson to replace Barrett with another lock, denying him a chance to make a statement with the selectors in his maiden appearance in the first XV.

As a result of that throttling, the importance of discipline has been amplified tenfold, after the All Blacks learned a harsh - but perhaps timely - lesson at London.

"It was a little bit disappointing for me, having to come off in the first half, when I was hoping to get some decent minutes," said Jacobson. "At the same time, its just the nature of the beast - it was a tactical move, we needed a lock out there.

"It was pretty clear that we probably needed to be a bit cleaner in that discipline area. It's tough to win games when the penalty count is that high, so we'll take a look at ourselves and get that tight, and hopefully, it doesn't happen again."

That was just one factor in a lengthy review conducted during the squad's stint in Germany last week, which - without a match looming at the end of the week - provided the ideal opportunity for finetuning to a level not typically possible during test week.

"We got into a bit of work, but a lot of it was more around our technical game and the detail around some of our movements," Jacobson explained. "[Forwards coach Jason Ryan] was really trying to coach us, rather than just train and upskill us, around what we were doing around our mauls, defence, scrummaging... all things that forwards do."

While Jacobson is experienced enough to know not to prematurely count his chickens, the prospect of putting that into practice in front of a hostile partisan crowd at Paris has his fizz levels bubbling.

He's had a taste of the Stade de France with the All Blacks during the annual European tour in 2021, but wasn't part of the gameday squad. The fervent French fans stuck out that day and he expects the occasion of a World Cup to quadruple that buzz.

"I got a little taste of the atmosphere and I'm sure it'll be even more, come round one of the World Cup.

"I'll start getting excited for it, once I know if I'm playing or not, but it's definitely a huge goal and hopefully it does happen."

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