By Damian Dolan
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney laughed off speculation at the weekend linking Paddy Jackson with a move to the Exiles.
Speaking after Irish beat Richmond 47-12 at the Madejski Stadium to move nine points clear at the top of the Greene King IPA Championship, Kidney dismissed renewed talk of Jackson joining the Exiles as the “silly season” where names are “thrown about”.
The Irish Independent reported on Sunday that Jackson was “almost certain” to be heading to Irish next season.
The Exiles have been repeatedly linked with the fly half since Ulster’s decision to terminate his contract in April.
If Irish are set to sign Jackson, Kidney was certainly giving nothing away.
“I think this is always the silly season when it comes to recruitment. When you look at any newspaper there’s more speculation than there is fact,” he told the Irish World.
“We will look at all good players that become available, so if I made comments about one player I’d have to make comments about loads of other players.”
Jackson’s strong links to the coaching set-up at London Irish have fuelled the talk of a move.
Kidney handed Jackson his first Ireland cap, in the Six Nations in 2013, while head coach Les Kiss coached him at Ulster.
Irish also have money to spend. One of 13 Premiership Rugby Ltd shareholders, the club is in line for a share of the spoils from the recent sale of a 27 per cent stake in the competition to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners – reported to be a €22.4m windfall.
Irish gave debuts to Fiji international duo Albert Tuisue and Alivereti Veitokani in Sunday’s win over Richmond, and have now been linked with Scotland prop Allan Dell for next season.
Kidney, though, played down talk of further new additions in the coming weeks, as the club pushes for an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership.
He said: “I don’t think they’ll be a whole lot more between now and the end of the season.
“The two lads were available at this time of the year, so once the November series ended we looked at bringing them in.”
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) January 13, 2019
Irish face a pivotal few weeks. They head to Nottingham on Friday evening (18 January) before welcoming Jersey – the only side to beat Irish in the league this season – to the Madejski on 27 January.
“It’s a good position to be in at the half way stage, but we knew coming into the season they’d be a target on our back, and we’ve probably increased it with the way we’ve done in first half [of the season],” said Kidney.
“It’s all to play for and we’re delighted with where we are, but one result can turn that [nine-point lead] around.”