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Zack Mercer, the revelation of the year in Montpellier

Zach Mercer, the indispensable third line of the MHR. CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP

The third-line English center, who arrived last summer, immediately became an essential cog in the MHR, opposed to Castres in the final of the Top 14.

Express adaptation. Last July when Montpellier announced the recruitment of Zach Mercer, to replace Louis Picamoles who had left for UBB, not many people had heard of this slender third-line (1.90 m for 111 kg), landed from of Bath. But it didn’t take long for the man who wore the XV de la Rose jersey twice (in 2018) to make a name for himself in the Hérault and the Top 14. “He gives us a lot. He is a positive player, who advances all the time. He makes us gain meters, he breaks tackles. He is very intelligent, he is a great player, we have seen him this year. He is one of the best number 8, in Top 14 but also in the world.greets the international back of the MHR, Anthony Bouthier.

Both powerful and mobile, runner and fighter, Zach Mercer – in a profile reminiscent of Imanol Harinordoquy or ex-Springbok Pierre Spies – immediately blended into the Montpellier collective. “Zack is a very versatile player. He is able to carry the ball, make passes, he can also scratch balls, details Olivier Azam, the coach of the Hérault forwards. We try to use it as best we can.“In his first season, the Englishman has lined up 30 times (23 starts) and has played 1,900 minutes in all competitions. For five trials entered.

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A success which is anything but a surprise for Philippe Saint-André, the manager of the MHR, at the origin of his arrival in France. “I thank Mohed Altrad (its president) because no one knew him. I told him : “Don’t worry! You won’t be disappointed.” I believe that players, clubs and the Top 14 are not disappointed to have players like that. he points out.

And the technician behind the return to the fore of the MHR to tell: “I worked 10 years in England (in Gloucester and Sale), I commented on the English championship for six years (on SFR Sport). Zack, I’ve been him for seven years, his father was an international at 7, he comes from the north of England, near where I trained in Sale. I knew his qualities, I had an opportunity at some point, things were going badly at Bath, the England coach didn’t trust him. So I jumped at the chance.»

Scottish youth international

If today the number 8 born in Leeds does not enter into Eddie Jones’ plans, he could have worn the colors of… Scotland where he had lived at the age of 8. He then went through the Glasgow Academy and had even been a Scottish international with the U16s. It was only at 18 that he joined Bath, one of the best training clubs in England.

The Anglo-Saxons have different mentalities from us, the French, who are grumpy, grumpy and who like to moan and be very negative

Olivier Azam

Everyone at the MHR salutes his irreproachable state of mind and his communicative good humour. “We see it every weekend, there is not a single game where we can say it was bad, insists Anthony Bouthier. Each match he brings us his serenity and his technique. He is a player that we want to have in our team.And Olivier Azam to support: “He is positive, like all Anglo-Saxons, they always have bananas. They need to be in something where they feel good, where they are comfortable. They have different mentalities from us, the French, who are grumpy, grumpy and like to moan and be very negative.»

Return to England for the World Cup?

And the former hooker passed as a player by Gloucester (2000-2003 then 2001-2011) and who was scrum coach for the English under-20s to let go with a smile : «This is also why I spent 10 years in England.Can Mercer, who is committed until 2023 at the MHR, spend so much time in France? Not sure, his top performances have not gone unnoticed across the Channel, Gloucester are said to be keeping an eye on him. And a return to England would also allow him to apply for a place in the XV de la Rose for the 2023 World Cup. Eddie Jones should not remain blind to the versatile third-row aged only 24 any longer. Impressive.

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