You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Irishman Jager rises up NZ rugby ranks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/06/2017 Angelo Risso

Oliver Jager grew up in Dublin dreaming of pulling on the iconic red jumper and becoming a British and Irish Lion.

Yet on Saturday, he will literally butt heads with them.

The 21-year-old Irish tighthead has been named for the provincial Barbarians in their tour-opening clash with the Lions in Whangarei on Saturday, having worked his way from a Crusaders academy spot to Cantabrian club rugby to, ultimately, Super Rugby.

Overlooked by Irish giants Leinster, Jager headed south after finishing school to continue his rugby education on the Shaky Isles and has been handsomely rewarded.

He played a role in Canterbury's provincial title win last year, and has made two Super Rugby appearances in 2017 as the Crusaders sweep all before them.

"When you grow up in Ireland, especially during a Lions year, it's the only thing on TV and you're always gunning for the Lions to win," Jager told reporters.

"I still remember watching the Lions in 2009, just dreaming about that.

"Of course, I'm in a bit of a different position now."

Jager will have his work cut out for him in Northland, with burly English loosehead Joe Marler opposite him in the scrum and Kyle Sinckler at tighthead.

He was grateful to have the likes of Joe Moody and Wyatt Crockett - proven Test-grade looseheads - at Crusaders training to test his mettle each week.

But it's the inclusion of Ulster-based Ireland captain Rory Best - a hooker, and one of his favourite players - that has the 192cm Jager truly champing at the bit.

"I've watched him since I was a wee guy," Jager said.

"It's going to be really cool to go up against him, to be honest.

"They're going to be quite a good pack, all going to be international quality, (but) we've done a lot of work on our scrum this week - I'm confident we'll give them a crack."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon