The 25-year-old has been a standout performer, and takes the captaincy armband as he has done previously in the absence of co-captains Sam Cane and Brad Weber. They are both spelled as the Gallagher Chiefs take on their first trans-Tasman opponent in the Melbourne Rebels.
While the Gallagher Chiefs have started with three straight wins, coach Clayton McMillan is not taking the foot off the throttle.
“We have players who have mandated breaks and for some that comes this week. More importantly, we have a squad of players who have trained outstandingly through the pre-season and early part of the competition, and are demanding their opportunity,” he said.
“The nature of the competition tests the depth and quality of your squad, and we are confident and excited for the guys who have had limited game time to take their opportunity.”
International props Aidan Ross and Ireland’s John Ryan are retained with Tyrone Thompson given his first start at hooker. In behind, Naitoa Ah Kuoi is joined by Māori All Black Manaaki Selby-Rickit who makes his Gallagher Chiefs debut with the redoubtable Brodie Retallick spelled.
Jacobson moves to openside to form an exciting back row with Samipeni Finau and All Black Pita Gus Sowakula who moves to No 8.
The exciting Cortez Ratima earns his first start at halfback while first-five Bryn Gatland, one of the Gallagher Chiefs standouts in 2022, gets his first start this season.
The back five, so important on defence and going forward, are retained where fullback Shaun Stevenson has a further opportunity to press his claims for higher honours.
There’s a proven and strong look to the bench, to add punch and energy, where Counties-Manukau winger Peniasi Malimali looks to make his Super Rugby debut.
“We were impressed with the Rebels when we watched them in Melbourne at the Super Round, and know they will provide a stern test,” said McMillan. “They are a much improved side, well drilled and physical. You can see their confidence growing and they have our full respect.”
The game kicks off at the earlier time of 4.35pm (NZ Time) on Saturday.
The team is (Chiefs caps in brackets):
1. Aidan Ross (63)
2. Tyrone Thompson (6)
3. John Ryan (3)
4. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (36)
5. Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Debut)
6. Samipeni Finau (20)
7. Luke Jacobson (52) (Captain, 139)
8. Pita Gus Sowakula (56)
9. Cortez Ratima (12)
10. Bryn Gatland (49)
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo (31)
12. Rameka Poihipi (17)
13. Alex Nankivell (61)
14. Emoni Narawa (9)
15. Shaun Stevenson (70)
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (66)
17. Ollie Norris (31)
18. George Dyer (10)
19. Laghlan McWhannell (4)
20. Kaylum Boshier (13)
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (38)
22. Josh Ioane (10)
23. Peniasi Malimali (Debut)
Players not considered because of injury: Angus Ta’avao (season), Atu Moli, Josh Lord, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tupou Vaa’i.