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17th Aug 2018

Paddy Jackson impresses as Perpignan beat Zebo and Ryan’s Racing 92

Patrick McCarry

The former Ulster outhalf is settling in nicely at his new club.

French rugby players don’t get much of a break at all.

Six weeks after the French national side finished up their three-Test tour of New Zealand, the country’s Top 14 and Pro D2 sides were back out in pre-season matches. Forget this 11-month season talk. In France, it’s about 363 days of the year.

For Irish players like Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and Paddy Jackson, who are not currently involved in the national team, getting straight into 2018/19 is something to relish.

There will be a lot of Irish interest in the Top 14 this season, with that trio of players at Perpignan and Racing 92 as well as Paddy Butler being at Pau and Irish coaches Mike Prendergast, James Coughlan and Paul O’Connell all earning a crust in the league.

Jackson came up against Zebo and Ryan on Thursday at the Stade Aimé Giral, in Perpignan, as both sides had a final hit-out before the league season gets underway.

Newly promoted Perpignan defeated Toulouse 21-20 in their last friendly outing, with Jackson nailing all three of his conversion attempts. Against Racing, the Ireland international was on the money again as his new side got off to a flyer.

Perpignan raced into a 17-0 lead, with Jackson converting two tries and scoring a penalty. A smart dink into the left-hand corner almost created another try but for some smart cover defending by Racing. His performance drew praise from supporters of his new club.

Emielien Vicens, covering the match for Rugbyrama, has been impressed with the Ulsterman’s start to life in France. He writes:

‘Tom Ecochard and Paddy Jackson were particularly good. Although they have not fully clicked as a pairing, Ecochard and Jackson have convinced on an individual level.

‘While the half-scrum and captain was responsible for Perpignan’s try just before the break, the Irish outhalf has a well-rounded game and uses great variation… Also, the Perpignan No.10 has not missed a single attempt against the posts in his two friendlies (he is 6 from 6).’

The 26-year-old was called ashore in the second half and had to watch from the sidelines as Racing roared back into the matches. Tries from Jordan Joseph, Ibrahim Diallo and a Juan Imhoff double turned a 24-5 deficit into a 26-24 lead with just seven minutes to play.

Perpignan rallied in the closing stages, however, and a 78th minute penalty from Romuald Seguy saw them win out 27-24. Next up for Perpignan is their Top 14 opener against a Stade Francais with O’Connell and Prendergast on the coaching ticket.

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