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Jackson targeting a fresh start in new surroundings


Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Former Ulster and Ireland fly-half Paddy Jackson is ready to settle into life in the south-west of France with new club Perpignan.

The 26-year old was pictured for the first time in the red and yellow of his new employers as they began pre-season training ahead of a return to the Top 14.

Perpignan won the French second division, the ProD2, last season and brought in Jackson to lead their back line in their first season back in the top flight.

For Jackson, it's all about regaining fitness ahead of the new season.

Both he and former Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding - who is also in France, having agreed a deal with ProD2 side Brive - were acquitted of all charges in a high-profile rape case and Jackson hasn't featured in a game of rugby since Ireland's tour of the US and Japan last summer, having been suspended from duty with Ulster while court proceedings were ongoing.

The playmaking back will now look to get his rugby career up and running again with the seven-time French champions, although he admits that he may have to wait to regain his top form.

"I want to find my best level quickly, I may be a little rusty but not too much," Jackson told French sports media outlet L'Equipe.

"I will learn the culture of the team, I will recover ground and that's good.

"I really want to discover the Top 14, that's also a big challenge because there are many great players, many different styles of rugby and I love learning things quickly."

Despite the slow start, Jackson was full of praise for his coaches and team-mates ahead of their return to the Top 14.

The team, including Jackson and the rest of Perpignan's new signings for this season, were put through their paces at the club's training base in the south-west of France by coach Patrick Arlettaz.

And having met his new club mates and gotten to understand the culture instilled at the Catalan club, Jackson stated his desire to help return the side to its former lofty standing within French rugby.

"The coaches and even the players really made me understand their will to continue evolving and progressing," added Jackson.

"And I really want to help them do that.

"I want to contribute to making Perpignan a strong team of the Top 14."

Meanwhile, Ulster have brought back former Academy lock Alexander Thompson for next season following a spell at All-Ireland League club Terenure College.

Thompson was not offered a professional deal when he came to the end of his stint in the Academy and instead latched on with Terenure in Division 1A of the All-Ireland League.

However, the 22-year-old's impressive form - which saw him called up to the Ireland Clubs squad - has caught Ulster's eye enough to offer him a deal for the upcoming season.

Thompson will compete with the likes of Iain Henderson, Alan O'Connor and Kieran Treadwell, as well as Academy prospects Matty Dalton and Jack Regan, for starts next season.

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