Highly rated Crusaders prop released and set for a return to Ireland?

Jared Wright
Crusaders prop Oli Jager during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter-Final match between the Crusaders the Fijian Drua.

Crusaders prop Oli Jager during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter-Final match between the Crusaders the Fijian Drua.

The Crusaders have confirmed the release of Irish prop Oli Jager ahead of the 2024 season.

Jager has been a mainstay in the Crusaders team over the past few seasons, helping the side win seven Super Rugby titles during his time with the New Zealand club.

However, his name was a notable omission from the defending champions’ squad announcement for the new season despite being contracted for the 2024 campaign.

Jager set for Ireland return

The London-born, Kildare-raised prop, is eligible for England and Ireland and qualifies for New Zealand through residency. Despite confirming his desire to play for the All Blacks, he looks set for a return to Europe.

Jager played 51 matches for the Crusaders, and new head coach Rob Penney has confirmed that he requested a release from his contract, citing an opportunity to play elsewhere.

“We are in the process of working through that and, ultimately, that will probably be honoured,” Penney told Stuff.

“I can’t elaborate too much…you will put two and two together, and he will come out with a release very shortly,” he added when asked if Jager was returning to Ireland.

It is not yet known which Irish province is set to secure the 28-year-old’s services following his departure from New Zealand.

However, French media reports that Samoa captain and tighthead Michael Ala’alatoa has agreed to move to Clermont from the 2024/25 season onwards.

L’Equipe report that Ala’alatoa has already agreed a two-year deal with the Top 14 outfit.

Jager would be a natural fit for Leinster, his home province, although he would be plying his trade behind Tadhg Furlong.

Wanting to be an All Black

The move away from the Crusaders suggests that Jager has given up on his ambition of becoming an All Black after slipping further down the pecking order.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear in the last couple of years that I want to be an All Black,” Jager said in April 2022.

“I’ve put a lot of effort into it, I’ve stayed in New Zealand. This is my sixth year in Super Rugby. I feel like I’ve been here long enough that I really feel part of New Zealand and I really feel like I’ve got a lot of friends in the team.”

He was named in the All Blacks XV squad for the tour to Japan earlier this year, and had he played, he would have pledged his allegiance to New Zealand.

However, he never took the pitch for the side and remains eligible for England and Ireland going forward.

READ MORE: All Blacks star set to return to New Zealand after stint in Japan