Jackson, who was found not guilty of raping a young student at a house party in Belfast in 2016, has been included in the 37-man squad London Irish have brought to Galway for Friday night’s pre-season match versus Connacht.
It has been reported that this is the first outing for Jackson in Ireland in 52 months, although Jackson has since gone on to rebuild his rugby career overseas following the high-profile 2018 trial.
He initially spent 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.
The last time Jackson played in Ireland he featured for Ulster in a May 2017 PRO12 win over Leinster in Belfast.
When 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, the decision ignited a social media storm according to RugbyPass.com.
“The decision by London Irish to keep Paddy Jackson in a leadership role for the new Gallagher Premiership season has generated a Twitter storm in his native Ireland ahead of Friday’s pre-season friendly versus Connacht in Galway," it was reported, with the hashtags #Ibelieveher and ‘Paddy Jackson’ trending on the social media site.
Jackson’s inclusion wasn’t touched on by London Irish in their squad release, with 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.”
Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty by a jury of raping a young student at a house party in 2016.
Mr Jackson was also found not guilty of sexually assaulting the then 19-year-old woman.
Two other players were also cleared of lesser charges: Blane McIlroy was found not guilty of exposure, and Rory Harrison was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
There was widespread concern that the complainant's experience could deter sexual violence survivors from coming forward.
The O'Malley report, which reviewed how vulnerable people are treated during sexual offences prosecutions and trials, was subsequently ordered by the Irish government.