The decision to leave Paddy Jackson out of the London Irish squad to travel to Cork for a preseason friendly against Munster tomorrow evening had nothing to do with planned protests outside the stadium, says London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney.
Kidney said it was never intended to bring Jackson and several other players to Cork and that he will make his debut for the club in the coming weeks, having arrived from Perpignan during the summer.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with protests or anything like that,” said Kidney.
“As a matter of fact, the players all knew about the squad that would be travelling long before any of that came to light. It’s a pure rugby decision.
“And it’s a friendly fixture too, with all due respect, and there are other reasons too. Paddy was in France so he started his preseason later than others,” added Kidney, speaking at the launch of the Gallagher Premiership in Twickenham.
The former Munster and Ireland coach said the Exiles have a programme to utilise all their squad during the lengthy preseason which, in essence, will continue during the Premiership Rugby Cup, which starts next week before the league commences on October 18.
“It’s been such a long preseason for London Irish. Our last game was on May 4 so it will be good to get a game under our belt and we will introduce more players in the cup competition which starts here soon.
“We have 10 players away at the World Cup, some of them haven’t even been in the club yet, so they will become available in a few months.”
Kidney, who gave Jackson his Irish debut against Scotland in 2013, said he has high expectations of him for the season ahead as promoted London Irish bid to copper-fasten their position in the Premiership.
“Two years ago he was playing for Ireland in Japan, three years ago he was playing against the Springboks. He is a good player and we just want him to fulfil his potential,” added Kidney, who guided Ireland to a Six Nations Grand Slam 10 years ago.
Now, Kidney is hoping to work the oracle with a London Irish side back in the top flight of English rugby and who will move to a stadium which they will share with Brentford FC in west London for the 2020/21 season.
Kidney said they are aiming for more than survival on their return to the Premiership.
"All the matches are fairly attritional here, you can’t target specific games.
“The new stadium opening in Brentford next season is an extra carrot for us. To be part of something that will bring London Irish back to London would be nice.
"The Madejski Stadium is a brilliant auditorium for playing matches but the fact that Brentford is that bit closer to the Irish diaspora will be great.”