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Jackson in London Irish switch as fans urge boycott


Moving on: Paddy Jackson has left Perpignan and will join London Irish for next season
Moving on: Paddy Jackson has left Perpignan and will join London Irish for next season

By Jack de Menezes

Former Ulster and Ireland fly-half Paddy Jackson will play in the Premiership next season after agreeing to join promoted club London Irish, just over a year after he was found not guilty of rape at a trial in Belfast.

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Irish made the announcement yesterday to mixed reviews, though some fans vowed on social media to boycott the club while Jackson is on the books.

Irish have not revealed how long Jackson has signed for after announcing his future arrival from French side Perpignan, the club he joined last season after the Irish Rugby Football Union tore up his contract following the trial.

While Jackson and fellow Irish international Stuart Olding were acquitted, the IRFU elected to sack them due to messages that they exchanged with two other defendants over text and social media, which came to light as part of the court case.

They both found new clubs in France as Jackson joined Perpignan and Olding signed a deal with Brive, and although the IRFU have left the door open to them representing the national team again in the future, they will not be considered for selection unless they are playing rugby in Ireland.

"I'm delighted to be joining London Irish next season at such an exciting and pivotal time for everyone involved with the club," Jackson said after the move was announced.

"London Irish have a clear vision for where they want to be and I look forward to being part of it."

Jackson's arrival will see the 27-year-old reunite with his former Ulster coach Les Kiss as well as the man who gave him his Ireland debut in Declan Kidney, having gone on to win 25 caps since 2013.

"Players of the calibre of Paddy Jackson do not become available very often and both myself and Les are looking forward to working with him in the future," Kidney said.

"He is a player with proven international quality who we feel will add value to our squad, and it is pleasing that Paddy sees London Irish as a part of his future."

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia can now sack star full-back Israel Folau (right) after he was found guilty of committing a high-level breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct for his offensive Instagram post last month that included some homophobic comments.

A high-level breach is the only category that can result in contract termination with RA, although Folau is yet to learn of his fate as the disciplinary panel will now deliberate whether or not to implement RA's intention of dismissal, with no timeframe set on the punishment.

Folau faced a three-day hearing after posting his latest offensive comments on social media, having said on Instagram that "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators".

The incident was the latest in a series of remarks that Folau made on social media based on his Christian beliefs, having previously claimed that gay people will go to hell unless they repent for their sins.

Following the hearing that began on Saturday, an RA statement issued yesterday read: "The code of conduct hearing in the matter of Israel Folau has concluded in Sydney.

"A panel of John West QC (Chair), Kate Eastman QC and John Boultee AM resided over the three-day hearing.

"The panel has today provided a judgement that Israel Folau committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10, 2019.

"The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction."

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