Oli Jager has, for a number of years now, been a name that has frequently popped up in conversation when discussing potential tight-head signings for Ireland’s provinces.
Traditionally, Irish rugby has struggled to produce top quality tight-head props, and given that Jager is Irish qualified, a fit into the Irish system would seem ideal.
He grew up on these shores, and was a fine schools rugby player for Blackrock College, playing alongside the likes of Irish squad members Garry Ringrose, Jeremy Loughman, and Nick Timoney.
With no Irish academy places on the horizon, he headed to New Zealand as a 17 year-old, and took part in the International High Performance Unit at the Canterbury Crusaders.
From there he was offered a place in Canterbury’s academy, and worked his way up through the ranks, playing in the ITM Cup, lining out for the Crusaders’ A side the Canterbury Knights, before making his way to Super Rugby.
He also played against the British and Irish Lions during their 2017 tour to New Zealand, when he represented the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.
Earlier today he started for the best club side In the world, the Crusaders, as they defeated the Blues to win the Super Rugby Pacific title. It is their fourth Super Rugby title in a row, and their 11th overall.
Jager was also praised for his solid scrummaging and soft-hands during their comfortable 21-7 over the Blues, further underlining his ‘top quality’ ability.
However, there is one explicit problem. Jager has expressed no interest to return to Irish rugby, and has stated clearly that his wish is to become an All Black.
In a recent interview with RugbyPass, Jager outlined his ambitions to play for his adopted country.
“I think I’ve made it pretty clear in the last couple of years that I want to be an All Black. 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.
“My whole life’s in New Zealand now, I’ve got a fiance from the South Island and all that kind of stuff so I think I’ve put a lot of effort in and I would love to see myself become an All Black one day.”
Reading this, it would lead one to believe that there is little hope Jager will be playing rugby in Ireland in the near future.
But, these words are from April, and since then Jager has failed in his quest to be named in the All Black or Maoiri squads for the upcoming five match series against Ireland.
Jager is clearly not in the short-term plans of All Black head coach Ian Foster, and his non-selection is a major blow to his hopes of making the 2023 World Cup squad.
At 26 years old he is teetering towards the second-half of his professional career, and the prospect of representing New Zealand is dwindling, albeit slowly.
With Munster in desperate need of ‘top quality’ front-rowers, and Jager’s contract with the Crusaders ending this summer, a move to the province is a perfect match from an Irish perspective.
Were Jager to make the move back to Irish rugby and play for Munster, international honours would likely come his way as soon as the Autumn Internationals.
Could this prospect lure him from his home in New Zealand? Could an Irish coach get in his ear during the upcoming tour and sell it to him?
Given his April comments it would seem unlikely, but certainly not far-fetched.