It's been a long time in coming for two Chiefs players who will make their long-awaited return to rugby this weekend against the Brumbies.

Luke Jacobson is back after missing out on a chance to represent the All Blacks at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Sam McNicol returns for the Chiefs after almost three years.

Concussion, one of rugby's most hideous injures, played a part in ruling both men out of the game for so long.

For Jacobson, the rising star of 2019 who raised the eyebrows of All Blacks selectors through his performances for the Chiefs, a chance at playing on rugby's grandest stage was cruelly taken away with his long-term health being the main concern for medics.


Jacobson is widely viewed as a long-term prospect in the All Blacks and was carefully eased back into the Chiefs, but the man himself isn't thinking too far ahead.

Luke Jacobson is just keen to get out and play some footy. Photo / Supplied
Luke Jacobson is just keen to get out and play some footy. Photo / Supplied

"It's been a wee while so I just want to get out there and play some footy, there is a lot of competition in the loose forwards but I know I've just got to get back toward some of the form I was in last year," Jacobson said.

Jacobson will pack down at No.6 alongside Sam Cane who shifts back into the traditional flanker role, giving an opportunity for the impressive Fijian loosie Pita Gus Sowakula to start at No.8.

McNicol hasn't made an appearance for the Chiefs for almost three years. His last Super Rugby appearance was in Suva in 2017, a match that left the winger with a severe concussion after attempting to tackle Crusaders centre Seta Tamanivalu.

As it turned out, concussion symptoms lingered longer than anticipated for McNicol and then the 24-year old required reconstruction surgery in his wrist after an injury there as well.

The last time McNicol played any rugby at all was for Hawkes Bay in Mitre 10 Cup last year before succumbing to a heavy ankle sprain, the latest in a long line of setbacks.

Reflecting on his journey back, McNicol said he's never stopped believing that he would make it back onto the field, while admitting that the time away forced him to take a look at his own life.

"I knew that I would get back out there eventually, if I stuck at it my time would come," McNicol said.


"It makes you think about what you're going to do if rugby is taken away from you, I had to look at my life balance and find other things so I did some coaching and a bit of study on the side."

McNicol will pair in the wings with Sean Wainui in a backline that also includes Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown.

The Chiefs will also blood further new talent with the debut of Lisita Milo-Harris who comes in as halfback cover.

Gallagher Chiefs
1. Aidan Ross (28)
2. Bradley Slater (3)
3. Atu Moli (41)
4. Michael Allardice (43)
5. Mitchell Brown (36)
6. Luke Jacobson (21)
7. Sam Cane (113) C
8. Pita Gus Sowakula (17)
9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (35)
10. Aaron Cruden (91)
11. Sam McNicol (18)
12. Alex Nankivell (25)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (71)
14. Sean Wainui (28)
15. Damian McKenzie (74)

16. Samisoni Taukei'aho (25)
17. Reuben O'Neill (1)
18. Ross Geldenhuys (2)
19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (3)
20. Mitchell Karpik (22)
21. Lisati Milo-Harris**
22. Kaleb Trask (2)
23. Quinn Tupaea (3)
Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
*denotes Gallagher Chiefs debut
**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

• Gallagher Chiefs vs Brumbies, Saturday February 22, 7.05pm
FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton. Gates Open: 4.15pm (NZT) Tickets:

• Curtain Raisers: Centurions Cup Final: Waikato XV vs. Bay of Plenty XV (FMG Stadium Waikato), Saturday, February 22, 4.25pm.

• Centurions Cup: Counties Manukau XV vs. Taranaki XV (Fred Jones Park), Saturday February 22, 3pm.