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Coach reveals how Paddy Jackson is a 'general' who won the respect of London Irish teammates

Jackson had been accused and acquitted of rape in a trial which gripped Ireland for 42 days at the start of 2018
Paddy Jackson

Paddy Jackson

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Paddy Jackson, who was found not guilty of raping a young student at a house party in Belfast in 2016, has earned the respect of his team mates and is now a “general”, London Irish head coach Les Kiss has said.

As London Irish prepare to travel to Toulon for the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup, Kiss has paid tribute to the man who had been accused and acquitted of rape in a trial which gripped Ireland for 42 days at the start of 2018.

“His mates have been strong for him and he’s grown with that,” Kiss has said.

“They have a lot of respect for him - and he respects what they do for him.

“The group took Paddy in and he worked hard with them. And when you work hard together, spill sweat and a bit of blood on the training paddock, those types of bonds grow."

Jackson has scored 196 points in 23 Premiership games and according to Kiss, is also now a “general”.

When Jackson joined London Irish it cost the team their long-time sponsor and the support of a section of their fans.

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.

But when it was reported in September 2021 that Jackson was set to play in Ireland for the first time since May 2017 it ignited a Twitter storm.

Jackson had been included in the 37-man squad London Irish brought to Galway for a pre-season match versus Connacht, which was the first outing for Jackson in Ireland in 52 months.

When it was announced that Jackson would continue in the leadership role at the English club which he was first given last November, 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 at the time, with the hashtags #Ibelieveher and ‘Paddy Jackson’ trending on the social media site.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players 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.

Now, however, as the Irish head to Toulon, Kiss said: “Paddy will be massive for us.

“It’s going to be a big occasion. When their crowd and team get going it can be quite a challenge.”

“This is what I like about the club,” said Kiss, a former Aussie rugby league star.

“When you look at who London Irish are, a lot of us live away from home. It’s a place where you look after each other because we’ve only got each other.

“That’s been a big part of it for Paddy, how the group have worked with him,” Kiss added. “They’ve just said ‘he’s part of us and that’s all there is to it’.

“He just used to be good and play with the parts that were made for him,” said his former Ulster coach added. “Now he designs the parts around him.”


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