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The English club that just moved a step...

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The English club that just moved a step closer to signing Paddy Jackson

A new club has emerged as the favourite to sign former Ulster and Ireland star Paddy Jackson.

Jackson – who moved to Perpignan at the start of the season after his IRFU contract was terminated – had been the French side’s starting flyhalf for the first half of the season.

However, the Top 14 outfit are having a nightmare return to the French top flight, and are yet to record a victory. What’s more, Jackson’s standing at the club and with the fans have taken a serious blow since he was linked with a move away from the troubled side – even suffering the ignominy of being booed by his own fans.

The 27-year-old was initially linked with a move to Lyon in November, with French out-half Lionel Beauxis set to leave the club for Oyonnax.

RugbyPass now understands that Jackson is close to finalising a deal with Championship side London Irish. Irish are expected to bounce back up into the Gallagher Premiership this season, and had an interest in Jackson at the end of last season when he was forced to depart Ulster.

London Irish plan to move back to the capital with a ground share at Brentford FC, and are in need of star power to bolster the squad ahead of that return.

They are also set to benefit from a major windfall, namely the Premiership Rugby’s £200million minority stake sale to CVC Capital Partners.

RugbyPass revealed on the weekend that Irish are also set to sign Tongan secondrow Steve Mafi.

The former Leicester Tigers lock – who can also play in the backrow – is currently plying his trade for Top 14 champions Castres.

Last year the Tongan had been linked with a return to Welford Road for this season. Mafi had apparently agreed terms with the now departed Tigers’ coach Matt O’Connor, who was fired by the club just one game into the 2018/19 season.

A source has told RugbyPass that the Mafi is instead set to agree terms with the Exiles for an annual salary in the region of £500,000 per year.

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The English club that just moved a step closer to signing Paddy Jackson | RugbyPass