'I want to be an All Black': Irish-born Oli Jager reasserts his test ambitions
Jager joined the Crusaders International High Performance Unit in 2013 after completing his high school education in his homeland and was first signed on a full-time contract to the Crusaders four years later in 2017.
After spending a number of years as an understudy to Owen Franks and Michael Alaalatoa, Jager has taken over as the Crusaders’ first-choice tighthead prop this season, starting in five of their nine matches.
The 26-year-old has made no secret of his desire to represent New Zealand on the highest stage and with a World Cup looming next year, the July series with Ireland may well be the last opportunity for the All Blacks blood players in order to get them up to speed with test football in time for the showpiece tournament in 2023.
“I think I’ve made it pretty clear in the last couple of years that I want to be an All Black,” Jager said on Tuesday when asked where his allegiance lies. “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.”
Jager will be competing with the likes of experienced All Black tightheads Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tuungafasi and Angus Ta’avao for a spot in the squad while his Crusaders teammate Fletcher Newell also looms as a potential wildcard option.
Of course, a debut against his home nation would be an incredibly special moment for Jager, who expects a fierce tussle come July after Ireland bested the All Blacks in Dublin last November.
“I’m looking forward to the games, obviously,” he said. “I think they’re going to be very enjoyable to watch.
“It’s going to be one hell of a tour for the Irish, that’s for sure. I’ve got a couple of mates in the team so it’d be good to catch up with them if I can. If you go back to the game last November where All Blacks went to Ireland and Ireland ended up coming up on top, they’ll come over with high hopes.”
Jager, however, avoided favouring one side for the series due to having a foot in both camps.
“I have to say I’ve got more friends in the ABs team and I want to see them do well. I’ll probably stay neutral for now.”
The All Blacks will be looking to bounce back from the last year’s 29-20 defeat and have revenge on their minds while the Irish side will likely enter the series as confident as they’ve ever been when playing in New Zealand on account of their strong form over the past 12 months.
In the short term, however, Jager’s focus will be on this weekend’s clash between the Crusaders and Waratahs in Sydney.
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