Belfast Telegraph

London Irish fans behind Paddy Jackson, says coach

New London Irish signing Paddy Jackson
New London Irish signing Paddy Jackson
Team coach Les Kiss

By Duncan Bech

The head coach of London Irish rugby club, Les Kiss, has insisted that the majority of its fans support its decision to sign Paddy Jackson.

Along with former Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding, 27-year-old Jackson was unanimously acquitted of rape in March last year following a high-profile nine-week trial.

During the trial, it was revealed that the former Ireland colleagues exchanged lewd text messages which were derogatory towards women.

Jackson will be entrusted with the playmaking duties at London Irish next season after completing a year at Perpignan, the French club where he began rebuilding his career after his Ireland and Ulster contracts were terminated.

An outcry from women's rights organisations ensued and some London Irish fans have vowed to boycott the Madejski Stadium in opposition to his arrival, while long-standing sponsor Diageo has ended its sponsorship of the club.

Speaking about Jackson's signing for the first time, head coach Les Kiss said the only consideration in recruiting him was his playing ability.

"The bottom line is that if you look at everything, I think there is more support than not. That's my view," Kiss said.

"First and foremost, Paddy is a good rugby player and it's an opportunity for him to further his career. He saw that as a good opportunity.

"People will have their opinions on the back story and the past, but we believe what we are about and we believe we are doing the right thing.

"Things will be thrown at us I guess, but the story is about everyone - we have signed a lot of good players.

"Ultimately we are a team and we will go out and play that way and come what may we will stick together."

The former Ulster head coach added: "Obviously I know Paddy and he's a quality footballer, so that is what we're focused on.

"Ultimately that is what our conversation was about and where we will stay with it.

"The bottom line is it is a rugby club that is looking for good players and we have signed Paddy. I understand that this becomes a story, but ultimately we want to make sure we focus on the right things."

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