Jackson and Olding linked to clubs in England and France
TRANSFER NEWS: Rumours and speculation are mounting around the playing futures of Ulster Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding in the wake of their acquittal following the much publicised nine-week rape trial that came to an end in Belfast last week.
Despite being found not guilty of the charges levelled at them the pair may seek or effectively be forced to seek employment outside of Ireland.
While a return to Ulster Rugby for the pair is still very much possible, a return to the Ireland jersey for either seems more problematic.
The intense media scrutiny around the trial and the vilification of the pair by a section of social media means that the IRFU may simply deem them as too hot to handle from a public relations viewpoint; Ireland captain Rory Best’s mere attendance at the trial in its opening weeks caused an online outrage among social justice campaigners and lead to Joe Schmidt being fielded with questions by the Irish media on the matter.
The campaigners – who have sought to use the trial as a vehicle to push their social change agenda – organised rallies in the Republic of Ireland in support of the claimant in the case, who remains anonymous.
One transfer rumour has linked Jackson to a move to Top 14 big spenders Montpellier. How much sense this move makes is questionable with All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden just coming to the end of the first year of a three year, €2.1 million euro contract.
Another rumour has linked Jackson with a move to Premiership Champions Exeter Chiefs, although the club might not have the room in the salary cap for a player of Jackson calibre; and that is presuming they were prepared to overlook the controversy surrounding him.
It is also not clear if Ulster Rugby have already made provision for Jackson’s and Olding’s absence.
Leinster pivot Joey Carbery is not getting enough top-flight exposure at 10 due to the career roadblock that is Jonny Sexton and has been repeatedly linked with a move to either Ulster or Munster. With the trial verdict still being a variable up until last week, it is quite likely that Ulster were preparing for an eventuality where Jackson would not be available, be it because of a further suspension or because of a potential prison spell if he had been found guilty.
In Olding’s case, it seems a ready-made provision has been acquired.
Both players are still technically suspended from playing rugby.
Ulster already announced the signing of Irish qualified Sale Sharks centre Will Addison. This means Ulster without Olding have three Irish internationals in Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall and Darren Cave and now the aforementioned Irish qualified Addison.