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Jackson's options narrowing as French club rule themselves out

Paddy Jackson’s hopes of playing his rugby in France took a blow after one of the reported leading contenders to sign him ruled themselves out.

Clermont had been rumoured to be favourites to sign the former Ireland and Ulster fly half, but their sports director Franck Azema put an end to the speculation.

“The Irish opener will not come” he said emphatically.

“There is no contact between Paddy Jackson and the club and no desire on our part to engage his services. I trust our workforce in this position where we do not lack resources with Camille Lopez, Patricio Fernandez, Ice Toeava and Dorian Lavernhe who continues to progress and whom we trust. With the constraints imposed by the Salary Cap, it is not possible to strengthen the position of opener where the internal solutions are numerous.”

It comes after Exeter Chiefs dismissed the possibility of signing Stuart Olding.

Rob Hunter, Exeter’s forwards coach, was speaking to the club’s official website in the aftermath of their 45-5 victory over London Irish on Sunday and stated the following.

“I can tell you what I know, which is nothing, 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, but it’s nothing to do with us really.”

Yesterday the chief executive of Ulster Rugby, Shane Logan, said he did not envisage Paddy Jackson or Stuart Olding playing for Ulster again.

It was announced on Saturday morning that both Olding and Jackson were having their contracts revoked by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby.

“That is not something that is being envisaged.”

“The position is joint. It’s a joint Irish and Ulster rugby position…The statement is clear and it is not something that we are contemplating.”

The CEO was quizzed during a BBC Northern Ireland interview this evening which he said the pair had “made a very serious mistake”.

“I hope that they will learn from that and I hope they fulfil their potential going forward.”

“No sponsor including Bank of Ireland drove the decision,” he claimed. “We have taken on board everybody’s views right across society, right across our supporter group, our sponsor group, our players, clubs, volunteers, we are part of society.

“But at the end of the day, having looked at all those things, the decision was based on alignment with what it is we stand for in particular the value of respect.”

Despite a jury finding Jackson and teammate Stuart Olding not guilty of rape at Laganside District Court, they will now have to look outside of Ireland for employment.

The two, who were banned from playing pending the trial, had pleaded not guilty to charges over the alleged incident on June 28, 2016.

The decision to part ways with the players comes after the IRFU and Ulster Rugby conducted an internal review following Jackson and Olding’s acquittal last month.

The review focused on a series of explicit group text conversations involving the players and their friends, which was revealed during the trial.

Two other men, Blane McIlroy, 26, and Rory Harrison, 25, were also acquitted of their respective charges in relation to the case.

The incident has sparked protests outside the club grounds, and several club sponsors have expressed concern following the case.

Following the trial Jackson said he is “ashamed” for the distress caused to a women he met at a party in 2016, which led to a trial for rape.

26-year-old flyhalf Jackson has made 25 appearances for Ireland since 2013, while 25-year-old Olding has made four.

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Jackson's options narrowing as French club rule themselves out | RugbyPass