Sale Sharks deny reports they will sign Jackson and Olding
An announcement by Sale Sharks that they will not be signing former Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding appears to have only fuelled speculation that they could still be on their way to the English rugby club.
The two backs were acquitted of rape in March, but had their contracts terminated after other aspects of their behaviour that came to light during the trial were heavily criticised.
Yesterday, it was reported that Sale had explored the possibility of taking Jackson and Olding to the AJ Bell Stadium for next season, only for the Salford club's hierarchy to decide against it.
Opposition to the signings among swathes of Sharks supporters had grown since news of the club's interest surfaced on Tuesday and included the creation of a petition on Facebook, notification of which was posted on the club's website.
"We can confirm there is no substance to the rumours currently circulating in relation to the signing of the two international rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding," Sale's statement read.
"Our search continues for top class players to bolster the squad for next season."
But despite Sale's move to distance itself from Jackson and Olding, the news has been greeted with a degree of scepticism.
Sale have form in this regard and sources indicated their statement should be treated with caution.
Twelve months ago they issued a similar statement after being linked with moves for Australian James O'Connor from Toulon and South African Faf de Klerk from the Lions, before going on to sign them weeks later.
It is understood that the Salford club could be about to repeat that trick with a U-turn as early as next week after their season comes to an end on Saturday.
Indeed, the controversial pair are believed to have visited the Sharks' training facilities in recent days ahead of their potential move to England.
Jackson and Olding have been linked with several clubs, with Clermont and Exeter Chiefs among those who have distanced themselves from the pair, but the move to Sale has been on the cards for a number of weeks. And reports suggest that Sale remains their most likely destination despite the club disputing the story yesterday.