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Mixed fan reaction as Paddy Jackson agrees deal to join London Irish

Paddy Jackson in action for Perpignan (INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Paddy Jackson in action for Perpignan (INPHO/Billy Stickland)

English side London Irish have announced the signing of former Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson ahead of next season.

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After spending one season with French club Perpignan in the Top 14, Jackson will link up again with former Ireland head coach Declan Kidney and former Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss at the Exiles.

The 26-year-old hasn't played in the United Kingdom since he had his contract revoked by the IRFU in April of last year following a review into a rape trial involving himself and then Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding.

Both players were acquitted of all the charges against them.

Reaction to the signing on social media has been strong, with there being a mixed response to the news that Jackson will be joining the recently-promoted side, who will play in the Gallagher Premiership next season - the highest level of English rugby.

Many fans were delighted by the signing as Jackson is still an extremely talented fly-half, who is seen as one of the top players in his position in European rugby.

"You'll get some stick but (in my opinion) it's a good signing," wrote one user.

Chris Johnston tweeted: "Delighted for @paddyjackson10. All the best for next season."

Mags Mac added: "Great Signing. Well Done Paddy."

However, the majority of those replying were opposed to Jackson's arrival at the Madejski Stadium, making their feelings known towards the club's Twitter account.

John Whelan simply tweeted: "Very disappointing", while Andy Deeley commented: "Not so sure about that one."

The Belfast Feminist Network released a strongly-worded statement on Facebook in response to the news that Jackson had been signed by London Irish.

The statement read: "Many of us who opposed his return to Ulster in April 2018 continue to oppose his return to a team in the UK particularly one that represents the Irish community living in London.

"Irish women rose up in their thousands following the trial of Jackson and his team-mate for rape. While the courts did not convict him, the undisputed evidence of rank misogyny and the details of a sexual encounter that left a young woman weeping and bleeding on the back seat of a taxi shook the whole country.

"We did not believe then that Jackson and his co-accused Olding should represent our community and our country in a sport that places considerable trust in its elite players as role models. We still do not believe that Jackson should represent our community with London Irish and we condemn the club for the decision they have announced today."

The London Irish Supporter's Club told the Belfast Telegraph that they would discuss the signing at their monthly committee meeting tomorrow night, after which they would make a statement.

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