Belfast Telegraph

Jackson and Olding may consider moves to France and Australia

By Lisa Smyth

Paddy Jackson looks set to relocate to France to rebuild his rugby career as speculation grows that he may sign with one of the country's most successful clubs.

It has been claimed that 26-year-old Jackson is in talks with Clermont Auvergne, the reigning French champions, in his attempt to put the drama of the last 20 months behind him.

Meanwhile, it is thought that 25-year-old Stuart Olding is looking further afield, with his representatives in talks with teams in Australia.

The pair were acquitted of rape by an 11-person jury at Belfast Crown Court last month.

However, they faced a barrage of criticism over the content of private WhatsApp messages that came to light during the nine-week trial.

In addition to a public outcry, two major sponsors of Ulster Rugby, Bank of Ireland and Kingspan, had voiced concerns about the situation.

While Jackson and Olding released statements saying they hoped to resume duties for Ulster and Ireland following the not guilty verdicts, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) announced on Saturday that it has sacked them both.

Jackson and Olding have both expressed disappointment at the IRFU decision.

Jackson had been linked to the likes of Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester, where former Ulster and Ireland player David Humphreys is Director of Rugby.

But a move to England for either player is looking increasingly unlikely.

It has been claimed that several English clubs have already turned down Jackson.

However, a move to France could be on the cards as the rape trial and content of the controversial messages did not receive as much coverage there as it did in England.

Clermont's position in the bottom half of the Top 14 table is partly due to their fly-half problems.

France international Camile Lopez has missed most of the season through injury, while Argentinian Pato Fernandez is short of experience. Jackson, a talented fly-half, could prove a valuable asset to the side.

It is also thought that Jackson would represent an attractive prospect to the French side as he would not be called upon for international duties.

France also offers larger salaries than any other professional league and Clermont has the resources to hire a player like Jackson, whose contract with Ulster was in excess of £300,000.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Jackson has negotiated an exit deal of close to his contract value with the IRFU.

It has been reported that both Jackson and Olding have been financially compensated by their former employer.

The IRFU's decision to revoke the players' contracts and pay off most of the remainder is seen as a "corporate clean up" exercise to restore the sport's reputation.

Both men's contracts were signed only weeks before events at a party at Jackson's home in the early hours of June 28, 2016, and the contracts of both players were due to run until the summer of 2019.

It is understood the decision to terminate the contract is a mutual decision between the IRFU and the two players and all sides will be bound by a confidentiality agreement.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph