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Paddy Jackson in his element, says London Irish coach Kiss


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Driving force: Paddy Jackson

Driving force: Paddy Jackson

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Driving force: Paddy Jackson

London Irish head coach Les Kiss believes Paddy Jackson will be a major success at the club, despite enduring an injury-hit first season.

Jackson, who joined London Irish last summer following one year with Perpignan, is an influential figure behind the scenes, according to Kiss.

London Irish are set to resume their Premiership campaign away to Bath tomorrow afternoon, and Kiss is hoping that Jackson can build on his impressive pre-season form.

The 28-year-old, who won 25 caps for Ireland, left Ulster in 2018 having had his contract revoked after becoming embroiled in a sexual assault case for which he was found not guilty.

Kiss, who worked with Jackson during his time as Ireland's defence coach, says he has done "exceptionally well" since joining London Irish.

"It was unfortunate he got injured early in the year, he was going bloody brilliantly then," Kiss said.

"We now know that he is totally in a good place now, touch wood.

"He's driving the team around the park, he's mentoring a couple of young guys we've got here. He's in his element at the moment.

"The players have bought into him and really the type of game I'd like the boys to play is around the strengths that he and Sean O'Brien have."

Kiss said he is grateful the Gallagher Premiership will be played to a conclusion ahead of the season's resumption tomorrow.

The Exiles travel to Bath tomorrow for their first match since a heavy defeat at Sale on March 6 before the campaign was suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership bosses have put exhaustive measures in place to ensure the sport can safely return and Kiss admits he is very grateful that the league is able to restart.

"There's a nervous excitement I think," Kiss said. "It's massive to be out of the game for four, five months for any player, it must be massive to not have that feeling.

"I can only imagine that there's going to be a lot of anxiety from a lot of players about where they stand.

"No one really knows, but personally I don't usually get butterflies this early in the week, but I've got a few of those butterflies in there, and the adrenaline, but it's exciting. It's a positive nervousness from everyone.

"I'm comfortable (with the Covid-19 arrangements) to tell you the truth, maybe I'm just grateful for the fact that it's back on, but who knows if this is the best or the right decisions, we've just got to go out there and do it, and that's my belief, and make it work."

The Exiles sit eighth in the table and will play their remaining home fixtures at the Twickenham Stoop, instead of their usual base of the Madejski Stadium, ahead of their relocation next season to their new home at the Brentford Community Stadium.

Former Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien is hoping to kick-start his own career with the Exiles, having made just one appearance for his new club before the suspension of the league.

The 33-year-old, who has had an even more extended period away from the game due to undergoing a hip resurfacing operation before lockdown, is itching to get back to action but knows things will be different in the new behind-closed-doors environment.

"It's hugely exciting to be honest, we've put in a lot of hard work over the last couple of months," O'Brien said.

"I think having no crowd can level things. I think it can have that effect because obviously going somewhere like that (Bath) they have a big following and now there's no crowd it does level it out a little bit, and we probably would have five or six hundred going to that game.

"Again it's strange, that there will be no atmosphere in the stadium other than the one we bring ourselves, so it does level it out a little bit if you want to look at it that way, absolutely."

Belfast Telegraph