Jacques O’Neill on Love Island 2022: who is Gemma Owen’s ex boyfriend and Castleford Tigers rugby player?

The producers of the dating show have turned the drama up a notch by introducing Gemma’s ex-boyfriend, following Liam’s departure

The Love Island producers must have seen viewers complaining that the 2022 season had got off to a slow start because they’ve decided to bring the drama by sending in the ex-boyfriend of contestant Gemma Owen to the villa.

This is everything you need to know about the new boy - and how Twitter has reacted to his entrance.

Who is Jacques O’Neill?

Jacques is the ex-boyfriend of Gemma, one of the original girls in the lineup for the new season of Love Island.

He is from Cumbria and works as a professional rugby league player with the Castleford Tigers. He has played for the Super League club 29 times since he signed in 2019, and in 2021 was named in England Knights’ performance squad.

Prior to making his entrance on the show, it was announced that Castleford Tigers had released Jacques from his contract in order to allow him to “pursue another opportunity”.

Jacques O’Neill of Castleford during the Betfred Super League match between Castleford Tigers and Hull Kingston Rovers on October 22, 2020 in St Helens, England (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

A club statement said: “Castleford Tigers can confirm that the club has agreed to release Jacques O’Neill from his contract to allow him to pursue another opportunity.

“The Tigers have the first option to sign O’Neill back next year should he wish to return to rugby league.

“Known for a fearless attitude on the field by Castleford supporters, the Cumbrian-born 23-year-old is a proud product of the Tigers’ youth system having come through both our scholarship and academy programmes before making his Super League debut.

“Castleford Tigers would like to wish Jacques well with his new opportunity and thank him for his efforts as a Tiger so far.”

When did Jacques O’Neill date Gemma Owen?

After Gemma figured out who the new arrival was, she quickly told the girls the news.

She informed them that she and Jacques broke up a year and a half ago, having been together for eight months.

Speaking ahead of his arrival at the villa, Jacques said: “I split up with my ex and then I was seeing someone else.

Jacques wasted no time in the villa before pulling Gemma for a chat (Photo: ITV)

“I was concentrating so much on my rugby and then I had that injury. I think it needs to be the right person, at the right time.”

He also described his dating history as “steady”.

What has Twitter said about the new arrival?

While Twitter, of course, has been loving the drama that an ex-boyfriend brings to the villa, the main issue for many viewers with Jacques is that of the age gap between himself and Gemma when they were together.

Jacques is currently 23 and Gemma is 19 and, if they broke up a year and a half ago, having been together for eight months, this puts Gemma’s age somewhere between 16 and 17 and Jacques in his 20s when they were dating.

Regarding their relationship, one person tweeted: “Clearly horses weren’t the only things being groomed at the Owens household #LoveIsland.”

Some viewers have expressed concerns about the age difference between Jacques and Gemma when they were dating (Photo: ITV)

Another wrote: “A YEAR AND A HALF AGO? Get bro on the register #LoveIsland.”

“Jacques is 23 and Gemma’s ex which means he was 21 dating a 16 year old? Insanity. #LoveIsland,” tweeted another.

Comedian Michael Fry tweeted: “Must be weird for Jacques. He hasn’t seen Gemma since she was a child. #LoveIsland.”

This season of Love Island has already seen controversy regarding Gemma’s age when Davide chose her to be coupled up with, even though he is 27 years old.

Why did Liam leave the villa?

Before Jacques even set foot in the villa, Islander Liam decided that Love Island was not the best place for him.

He became the first contestant to leave the villa this year after announcing to his fellow islanders that he “hadn’t been himself” since arriving, adding: “I know what 100% Liam is and I’m miles off that.”

While Gemma has made a number of hints towards her famous footballing father, Michael Owen, she has refrained thus far from dropping his name.

Liam decided to leave the villa voluntarily (Photo: ITV)

Prior to appearing on the Love Island companion show, Aftersun, on Sunday (12 June), Liam was told by ITV about who her dad is - and he couldn’t hide his surprise.

He said: “I can’t believe who that actually was. That’s mad. I’m a Newcastle United fan. I actually have one of his tops when he came to the club.”

Liam added: “The first night, we were chatting about football and her family. I was so close. I can’t believe I didn’t quite work it out.”