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Paddy Jackson set to play in Ireland for first time since May 2017

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Juan Gasparini/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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London Irish out-half Paddy Jackson is poised to play his first match in Ireland this Friday since last featuring for Ulster in a May 2017 PRO12 win over Leinster in Belfast. The now 29-year-old was stood down by the IRFU shortly playing for Ireland in Japan that summer and his contract was eventually terminated in April 2018 despite being found not guilty of raping a young student at a house party in Belfast.

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Jackson has since gone on to rebuild his rugby career overseas, initially spending a year in France with Perpignan before switching to London Irish and becoming a vital part of their set-up under Declan Kidney, the coach who gave him his Test debut in 2013.

It was announced earlier this week that Jackson would continue in the leadership role at the English club which he was first given last November, joining Nick Phipps in assisting skipper Matt Rogerson for the coming 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership. That decision ignited a social media storm with #Ibelieveher and ‘Paddy Jackson’ trending on Twitter in Ireland. 

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It’s a debate now set to continue into the weekend as Jackson will be the starting No10 after getting included in the 37-man travelling squad London Irish brought to Galway for Friday night’s pre-season match versus Connacht – the first outing for Jackson in Ireland in 52 months.

He had previously missed out on trips back to his native country, giving a Challenge Cup match at Connacht with Perpignan and a pre-season game at Munster with London Irish a miss, but he is now finally ready to bridge a long gap as he has been chosen as a starter from the 17 backs that Kidney has with him at the Sportsground.  

Jackson’s inclusion wasn’t touched on by London Irish in their pre-game squad release, Kidney saying: “The trip to Connacht will be a good chance for the players to get some game time under their belts ahead of the new season. The players and staff have worked hard this pre-season, and this is an opportunity to put it into practice before the trip to Worcester.”

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LONDON IRISH (vs Connacht, Friday)
15. Parton; 14. Hassell-Collins, 13, Rona, 12. Hepetema, 11. Rowe; 10. Jackson, 9. Phipps; 1. Goodrick-Clarke, 2. Creevy, 3. van der Merwe, 4. Simmons, 5. Coleman, 6. Rogerson (capt), 7. Donnell, 8. Tuisue.

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Paddy Jackson set to play in Ireland for first time since May 2017

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