Saturday 16 February 2019

Paddy Jackson lining up move to London Irish next season

Paddy Jackson: Keen to leave Perpignan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Paddy Jackson: Keen to leave Perpignan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Paddy Jackson is almost certain to be playing his rugby with London Irish next season. It is understood there is still one other French club in the mix to sign him but a combination of factors makes a move to the Exiles virtually a done deal.

A senior London Irish source maintained yesterday that there was uncertainty at board level about taking on Jackson given that it's less than a year since his IRFU contract was cut, but it is understood that was never raised as an issue in negotiations, and that both player and club want the deal to go through.

The factors in its favour include director of rugby Declan Kidney and head coach Les Kiss, both of whom have played a positive role in Jackson's career. Kidney gave him his first cap, in the Six Nations in 2013. And Kiss was coach in Ulster when Jackson was playing his best rugby there.

Secondly, the club, for the first time in their history, have a big budget to spend upgrading the quality of their squad. Between the €22.4m windfall that all current Premiership clubs, along with London Irish, will get from the recent sale of a 27 per cent stake in the competition to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, and fresh investment in the club, they will have a war chest. London Irish are leading the Championship and are strongly favoured for promotion back to the Premiership. At the end of next season they will take up their tenancy in the new 17,000-capacity stadium in Brentford, a move that will take them out of Reading and back to their support base.

Thirdly, the move to the Premiership would provide the perfect springboard for Jackson to gradually work his way back to Ireland. His IRFU contract was terminated last year following the high-profile rape case where, although he was acquitted, the union found him to be in breach of the terms of that contract. Along with fellow defendant and Ireland international Stuart Olding, also acquitted and now with Brive, he headed to France.

While Olding has landed in Brive, a club determined to get promotion from the Pro D2 to the Top 14, Jackson's Perpignan - he lined out at fullback for them on Friday night in the Challenge Cup defeat against Bordeaux - are en route to relegation from the top flight where they are without a win from 14 games. They are bottom of Pool 3 in the Challenge Cup where they have lost all five games.

Clermont, who are now trying to sign France international Jules Plisson, made Jackson an offer recently but, according to a source in that club, he knocked it back.

It's understood that Lyon may be the other French club involved but they have little chance of getting close.

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