The reason Castleford Tigers are in pole position to re-sign Jacques O’Neill ahead of rugby league return

O’Neill has outlined his plans to return to the sport after time away to feature on Love Island.

Jacques O’Neill may have put clubs on alert by announcing his intention to return to rugby league – but it’s his former club Castleford Tigers who are in pole position to land his signature. The Cumbrian is getting ready for a return to the sport having stepped away to appear in hit show Love Island and confirmed the news to Sky Sports yesterday.

That has resulted in plenty of social media speculation regarding his next club. However, it is his former team that are in the best position to secure a deal following an agreement made well over a year ago. As part of Castleford’s decision to release him from his contract, a stipulation was added that ensured they had first refusal to sign him if he ever made the decision to return to the sport.

It means that the Tigers are first in line to negotiate a deal with him and re-sign him should they wish to do so. Announcing his departure in June, the club said in a statement: “The Tigers have the first option to sign O’Neill back next year should he wish to return to rugby league.”

Since leaving Love Island, 23-year-old O’Neill has done some modelling work but has remained active in the gym, regularly posting videos on social media. He hasn’t played rugby league since September 2021, in what was a solitary appearance before having to get hamstring re-attachment surgery. He made 27 Super League appearances for the Tigers, scoring three tries.

When asked about returning to the sport he said on Sky Sports: “I’m hoping soon, honest. I’m hoping sooner than I thought because I miss it. I’m going to be honest. When you love something as a kid it doesn’t go away and I want to be back.”