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French champions Clermont Auvergne rule out Paddy Jackson move

By Lisa Smyth

French club Clermont Auvergne have ruled out a possible move for former Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's rugby futures are uncertain, with rumours linking the duo to moves abroad.

There had been speculation 26-year-old Jackson was in talks with Clermont Auvergne, the reigning French champions.

In a statement, Clermont Auvergne coach Franck Azema said: "I trust our team and we have sufficient cover in that position.

"There has been no contact between Paddy Jackson and the club and we are not interested in engaging his services.

"With the constraints of the salary cap it is not conceivable that we would further strengthen the fly-half position when numerous options already exist."

Azema noted fly-halves Camille Lopez, Patricio Fernandes, Ice Toeava and Dorian Lavernhe were on the teams books and continue to improve.

Former Ulster players Jackson and Olding were acquitted of rape by an 11-person jury at Belfast Crown Court last month.

It is thought that 25-year-old Olding is looking further afield, with his representatives in talks with teams in Australia.

Olding had been heavily linked with a move to Exeter Chiefs but their forwards coach Rob Hunter said the back is 'not on (the club's) radar".

He said: “It’s not something that we’ve discussed in the office. So it’s another one of those where we’ve been linked to somebody but we’ve not spoken to an agent and we’ve not spoken to a player.

"It’s not on our radar at all. We get linked to lots of players, it’s just not on our radar, it’s nothing to do with us really.”

Jackson had been linked to the likes of Gloucester, where former Ulster and Ireland player David Humphreys is Director of Rugby, but a move to England for either player is looking increasingly unlikely. It has been claimed that several English clubs have already turned down Jackson.

A move to France could be on the cards as the rape trial and content of controversial messages did not receive as much coverage there as it did in England.

Jackson and Olding faced a barrage of criticism over the content of private WhatsApp messages that came to light during the nine-week trial.

Clermont's position in the bottom half of the Top 14 table is partly due to their fly-half problems.

France international Camile Lopez has missed most of the season through injury, while Argentinian Pato Fernandez is short of experience. Jackson, a talented fly-half, could prove a valuable asset to the side.

It is also thought that Jackson would represent an attractive prospect to the French side as he would not be called upon for international duties.

France also offers larger salaries than any other professional league and Clermont has the resources to hire a player like Jackson, whose contract with Ulster was in excess of £300,000.

In addition to a public outcry following the trial, two major sponsors of Ulster Rugby, Bank of Ireland and Kingspan, had voiced concerns about the situation.

While Jackson and Olding released statements saying they hoped to resume duties for Ulster and Ireland following the not guilty verdicts, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) announced on Saturday that it has sacked them both.

Jackson and Olding have both expressed disappointment at the IRFU decision.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Jackson has negotiated an exit deal of close to his contract value with the IRFU.

It has been reported that both Jackson and Olding have been financially compensated by their former employer.

The IRFU's decision to revoke the players' contracts and pay off most of the remainder is seen as a "corporate clean up" exercise to restore the sport's reputation.

Both men's contracts were signed only weeks before events at a party at Jackson's home in the early hours of June 28, 2016, and the contracts of both players were due to run until the summer of 2019.

It is understood the decision to terminate the contract is a mutual decision between the IRFU and the two players and all sides will be bound by a confidentiality agreement.

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