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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Liam Llewellyn

Love Island's Keanan Brand sought advice from fellow star Jacques O'Neill on rugby return

Love Island star Kenan Brand sought advice from fellow reality star Jacques O'Neill on his return to rugby.

The 24-year-old entered the villa this year as a bombshell late in the series alongside Rosie Seabrook. However, he failed to find love and six days later he was dumped from the island along with Claudia Fogarty.

As some of the contestants continue to ride the Love Island wave, Brand has returned to his rugby team Leigh Leopards, who won promotion back to Betfred Super League for this season. The centre has represented the team, currently eighth in the Super League, since 2022 and is back in training after a hernia op, which he underwent just four days after leaving the Love Island villa – with no regrets about his taste of the limelight.

Once leaving the villa he was in contact with pal and fellow rugby player O’Neill, who joined the Leopards on a short-term loan in 2018, and opted to voluntarily leave Love Island last summer for mental health purposes and to 'get back to himself'.

“We’re quite good friends but I didn’t tell him I was going on,” Brand told The Sun. “Once I left, though, he was straight in contact saying, ‘If you ever need anyone, I’m here for you.’ I saw him to talk through things as we’d both been through the same.

"It’s hard to explain what it’s like, so it was good to talk to someone who’s been in that same situation. But I went in with no expectations, so after I came out, I wasn’t hit with any overriding emotions.”

Brand spent six days on Love Island after entering the villa as a bombshell (ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

After trying to feature on the show for three years, Brand’s wish came true as he touched down in South Africa to appear on the hit reality TV programme. Reflecting on his journey, Brand was pleased his appearance came on the show at this stage of his life rather than as a teenager when he initially auditioned.

"I actually auditioned in 2019," he said. "I was only 19 then and looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get on.

"Then I was in Ireland’s World Cup camp when I got a call from a producer to go and audition. By the time I got home, they’d rang me and asked if I could do a medical. But I wasn’t jumping for joy, you can actually fly out there and not get on!"

Brand's pal Jacques O'Neill featured on Love Island last summer and also played rugby (Allan McKenzie/

But after getting the call late last year to appear on the show, Brand made the most of the opportunity. "They called again in December to say they wanted me to go on as a bombshell, which is when I told my boss Adrian Lam and Leigh owner Derek Beaumont," he went on.

"They both said, ‘Go for it,’ but I didn’t want to give my rugby career up. It would’ve been different if I wasn’t injured but because the club backed me, I went in with no pressure.

"But honestly, there’s not much difference in life now from before I went on. People obviously recognise who I am, which is a bit different, but all my friends and family are very grounded. It was just straight back to reality, which is what I wanted. I’ve gone straight back to my normal life."

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