Paddy Jackson: It’s been difficult but you just have to get used to it

Paddy Jackson said people might not be able to understand what he has been through unless they experienced something similar.

But the former Ulster Rugby star – who was cleared of rape charges earlier this year – said he is determined to push on with his life on and off the rugby pitch.

Paddy Jackson in action for Ireland

Paddy Jackson in action for Ireland

Jackson has moved to the south of France after securing a two-year contract with Top 14 side Perpignan.

He made an impressive debut for the Catalan club last Thursday against Toulouse in a pre-season friendly.

Jackson was suspended, along with his Ulster and Ireland team-mate Stuart Olding in July last year, after they were charged with rape by the PSNI.

The two players had their contracts revoked in April following an IRFU and Ulster review which was conducted after the rape trial ended in March.

Both men were acquitted of raping a woman in June 2016.

Olding has signed for another French side Brive and has impressed in pre-season friendlies, while Jackson is also determined to rebuild his career, but admitted that it has not been easy.

“It’s been difficult but it’s something that me and my family have just had to get used to. You only can really understand if you have been in my shoes or my family’s shoes.

“It’s something you get used to. You stick together and you help each other.

“I have come out somewhere where people know about it but they are all respectful and understanding about it.

“They have helped me in training to get into the lifestyle here. I have just been focusing on playing here,” said the 26-year old.

Jackson, who made his Irish debut against Scotland in 2013 and who won his 25th cap in Japan last summer, said that he is putting a lot of effort in learning to speak French.

“The language has been the most difficult thing. I have a very small bit of French from school, which is not very good at all.

“I have been getting lessons twice a week and just trying to stay on top of it. At the minute it’s not clicking in speaking but I can start to understand reading and stuff like that.

“It’s different on the rugby pitch because you have your calls which I know what a call means. Rugby is almost a language in itself. I have struggled with the language.

“But once I got out on the pitch today I felt like I just came out of my shell again. I was just back playing rugby which is all I wanted to do.”