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Rugby News

Kerr honoured by unexpected call-up

"To be honest, they were pretty shocked ... just like me!"

Jake Kerr's parents didn't see it coming.

"I was just at home alone, relaxing, and I got a call from Gregor [Townsend] ... I was not expecting it at all."

The player himself wasn't either.

However, it happened, and now, the Edinburgh-born Leicester Tigers hooker is one step closer to realising his dream of representing Scotland on the international stage.

But, the modest 22-year-old is not getting ahead of himself.

"It's massive, it's what everyone wants to do, but I'm not counting my chickens too early," says Kerr. "I'm just pleased to be involved and feel honoured to be a part of the camp."

Kerr was handed a professional contract less than 18 months ago, by then-Tigers head coach Matt O'Connor, after impressing while on trial at the club in a string of 'A' League appearances at the beginning of the 2017/18 season.

At the time, Kerr was studying at Loughborough University after having played for Watsonians and Boroughmuir in recent seasons and impressing for Scotland Under-18s and U20s squads before shoulder injuries prevented a rise through the ranks in Edinburgh and eventually the decision was made to move to the East Midlands of England for academic reasons.

In his debut season at Tigers, Kerr appeared in just four games - all in the Anglo-Welsh Cup - as he battled it out with international duo Tom Youngs and Tatafu Polota-Nau, as well as George McGuigan and Harry Thacker for game time in the senior side.

"I'm going to go in to and try to learn as much as I can."

Now, only halfway through his second season, and Kerr has 18 club appearances to his name, including Premiership and European debuts after hard work on the Oval Park training pitch saw him promoted up the pecking order.

Then, with Polota-Nau away on international duty with Australia in autumn, Kerr was handed his chance in the matchday squad alongside club captain Youngs and continued to impress.

An unfortunate injury to Youngs coincided with the return of Polota-Nau and many expected the Wallaby to be thrown straight into the No.2 shirt, but it was Kerr who Geordan Murphy placed his trust in alongside international props Ellis Genge and Dan Cole.

Since then, Kerr says it's just been about making the most of opportunities.

"I've been playing because of injuries and just taken any opportunity that I've got," admits Kerr.

"But, it's definitely not all me. My learnings this season have come from soaking up all I can from both Boris as a coach and the senior lads like Tom, Taf, Ross, Jimmy. There's a wealth of knowledge here, it's not all down to me."

Now, in camp with Scotland, the Tigers 'rake' is taking the same mindset in to his first sessions under Townsend - who has been impressed with the hard work he's seen from Kerr in Leicester colours.

"I'm going to go in to and try to learn as much as I can," says Kerr.

"He's [Townsend] told me that he's been pleased with what he's seen of me this season and that there is an opportunity there for me.

"I'm going to suck everything in, understand what I'm trying to achieve and do all I can to put my fest foot forward for a place in the Six Nations."

Not bad for a kid who was on trial just over a year ago.