Leicester's Jake Kerr takes different route to glory

He may not even be aware of it but Finn Russell could bump into a fellow countryman when Leicester Tigers host Racing this afternoon. One-time Edinburgh academy player Jake Kerr starts the game on the Leicester bench, his story almost as dramatic as Russell's.
Jake Kerr didn't get a look-in at Edinburgh. Pic: SNS/SRU/Craig WatsonJake Kerr didn't get a look-in at Edinburgh. Pic: SNS/SRU/Craig Watson
Jake Kerr didn't get a look-in at Edinburgh. Pic: SNS/SRU/Craig Watson

As an academy player during the era of Alan Solomons, a conservative South African coach inclined to go with players he knew, Kerr didn’t get a look in at Edinburgh.

“The closest I got was one weekend I was on the bench against Leinster away,” he recalls, “when we were missing a lot of international players and we had a couple of injuries… and I still didn’t get on the pitch.”

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He almost certainly will today even if another injury, this one to sometime England hooker Tom Youngs, had opened the door for him. Kerr has played five times for the Tigers, three times in the league, including one start, and twice in Europe.

So did Edinburgh make a horrible mistake letting him go?

“No, they didn’t make a mistake,” says Kerr. “I think I am a much better player now. I am well rounded and obviously I know a lot more. Last year I was learning from Tommy [Youngs] and Tatafu [Polota-Nau] and Harry Thacker as well. I decided to leave, they wanted me to stay, so I wouldn’t say they made a mistake.”

Kerr says he needed a change of scenery and he also needed to rehab a shoulder operation, his second on the same joint.

Realising that rugby was a perilous profession, he entered Loughborough University to get a degree in economics in case the sporting dream didn’t happen.

With a two-year deal from the Tigers in his pocket, the degree is now on ice.

Kerr comes from good sporting stock. Dad John played for Watsonians, Caledonia, Scotland A and Scotland Sevens. Meanwhile his younger brother Josh has set the standards, representing the UK in the 2017 World Athletics Championships in the 1500. Does fraternal rivalry drive Jake on?

“There probably is a little bit of a rivalry there between us,” he concedes, “but it’s more of a fun thing. We do wind each other up.

“It is quite nice to have each other pushing each other on. I am certainly trying to come out of his shadow given how well he is doing.”

The hooker should take another step out of the shadows this afternoon.