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Paddy Jackson in talks over possible move if Perpignan's relegation is sealed

The Catalan club are rooted to the bottom of the Top14 and are yet to win this season

Jackson leaves the field after defeat to Connacht.
Jackson leaves the field after defeat to Connacht.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

John Fallon reports from Perpignan

PADDY JACKSON HAS confirmed he is in talks with a number of clubs about a possible move away from Perpignan if, as expected, the Catalan club is relegated from the Top 14 at the end of the season.

Jackson confirmed that he has a release clause in his two-year contract with Perpignan which allows him to leave if they go down to Pro D2.

The clause is standard for most international players when they join a club who compete in a league where there is relegation.

Lyon were the first club to emerge as Jackson’s possible next destination and while the out-half declined to confirm what clubs are interested, it is believed that Declan Kidney’s London Irish might be keen.

Kidney gave Jackson his Irish senior international debut when he drafted him in to play Scotland in the 2013 Six Nations.

“There have been a few clubs which have spoken to me. That is really the stage it is at, at the minute,” said Jackson, whose side fell to their latest defeat when they were beaten by Connacht in the European Challenge Cup at the weekend.

“If they go down yes, but that is just a decision I am going to have to make between myself and the coaches here,” added Jackson, when asked if he had a release clause.

“It is something I am just looking at the moment. But the main focus is trying to play well and get our win.”

Jackson expressed his thanks to Perpignan when he joined during the summer for giving him the chance to resurrect his career.

Both Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted in March of raping a woman in June 2016. The two players, who had their contracts revoked in April this year following an IRFU and Ulster review which was conducted after the Belfast rape trial in March, are now pursuing their careers in France with Olding playing for Brive in Pro D2.

Efforts by both players to claim back their legal costs were dismissed on Friday by Judge Patricia Smyth, who presided over the trial earlier this year at Belfast Crown Court. Jackson’s legal costs have been estimated at £450,000 while Olding, who was granted free legal aid during the nine-week trial, is estimated to face a legal bill of £150,000.

Jackson, who will be 27 next month, was seen as the star signing as Perpignan tried to scramble a team together last summer after promotion.

Paddy Jackson with James Connolly and James Cannon Jackson on the attack against Connacht. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The club had been relegated for the first time in their 116-year history four years earlier but, like most promoted teams in France, had little time to bolster their squad to compete in the top flight.

Jackson made a bright start to life in France and while his form has dipped of late, Perpignan’s difficulties run much deeper with a pack that lacks punch and accuracy and a backline that constantly breaks down.

It has been a wretched season, eleven straight defeats in the Top 14, three more in Europe and the only respite has been a drawn away to Bordeaux-Begles in the Challenge Cup.

Some Perpignan fans, fanatical even by French standards, have reacted badly to news that Jackson may depart if they are relegated and it was noticeable on Friday night at Stade Aime Giral that some supporters jeered when Jackson was replaced in the second-half.

That’s not uncommon in France, clubs in trouble usually turn against the foreign or big signing and Jackson said he is just going to keep working hard to try help them rescue their plight.

“No one wants to lose. We are all going out there trying to win but it just hasn’t been the season for us so far. We are still waiting for that win.

“It is tough but it is a very close group of guys. Everyone comes into training, we get the video done, which is the tough part because a lot of games have been close this season.

Paddy Jackson after the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We do well for 60-65 minutes. Then we just seemed to fade off a bit at the end of the game. But after that we get onto the next objective. The next one is Racing 92. Another huge game, very tough game away. We are just going to have to get ready for that and try and enjoy what we are doing in a tough time,” added Jackson.

Friday night’s match against Connacht, where Perpignan raced into an 8-0 lead after 12 minutes but ended up losing 38-21, was Jackson’s first against Irish opposition since moving to France.

He had played at underage level for Ireland with a number of the Connacht players and said it was good to meet up with them again.

“It was good. It was good seeing familiar faces again, guys I haven’t seen in a while. I really enjoyed it, I really enjoyed the first half. I felt like I was playing well.

“Obviously, the kicking didn’t go well and a couple of individual mistakes but there were aspects of the game where we controlled the game very well, myself and Tom (Ecochard) at nine and ten.

“I know we will focus on the result which isn’t great and another loss which isn’t ideal, but there are things there where we started to play a bit better.

“I felt really comfortable in the first half and then it started to slip away a bit with a few silly mistakes. That’s something that something that myself individually and the team have to get better at,” he added.

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John Fallon

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