Em­bat­tled player des­per­ately tries to re­build ca­reer af­ter rape trial

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Nik Si­mon and Va­lerie Han­ley

IRE­LAND and Ul­ster Rugby player Paddy Jack­son has been turned down by sev­eral English clubs as he tries des­per­ately to re­build his ca­reer.

Mr Jack­son and Stu­art Old­ing, who were found not guilty of rape last month, had their Ire­land and Ul­ster con­tracts re­voked yes­ter­day fol­low­ing an IRFU re­view.

Outhalf Jack­son’s ser­vices are un­der­stood to have been pitched through­out the English Premier­ship, with

spec­u­la­tion sug­gest­ing a link-up with Glouces­ter, where former Ul­ster and Ire­land player David Humphreys is Di­rec­tor of Rugby.

Jack­son’s play­ing skills are un­der­stood to have been pitched to clubs in Eng­land and France.

Sev­eral English clubs have al­ready turned him down.

‘Even though he was found not guilty, it would take a brave club to sign him,’ one di­rec­tor of rugby told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day.

‘He’s been of­fered every­where, but a fam­ily club wouldn’t want to be as­so­ci­ated with those [What­sapp] mes­sages.’

Jack­son and Old­ing were unan­i­mously ac­quit­ted by an 11-per­son jury at Belfast Crown Court last month in a trial which po­larised opin­ion. At the cen­tre of the case was a 19-year-old stu­dent who claimed she was raped by the two men dur­ing a party at Mr Jack­son’s home in June 2016.

Two other play­ers, Blane McIl­roy and Rory Har­ri­son were also found not guilty on other charges re­lat­ing to the case.

While Jack­son, 26, and Old­ing, 25, were cleared of rape, there has been a strong public back­lash about a What­sapp mes­sage ex­change pub­lished dur­ing the trial. Both play­ers have vowed to re­build their rep­u­ta­tions.

Yes­ter­day, the IRFU an­nounced it had sacked the play­ers be­cause they had brought the game into dis­re­pute. The duo’s de­par­ture was con­firmed fol­low­ing an in­ter­nal re­view into their con­duct.

The IRFU and Ul­ster Rugby re­view had fo­cused on the se­ries of sex­u­ally ex­plicit What­sApp con­ver­sa­tions in­volv­ing the play­ers and their friends about the sex­ual en­counter at the cen­tre of the trial.

In a state­ment, the IRFU and Ul­ster Rugby said: ‘Fol­low­ing a re­view, con­ducted in the af­ter­math of re­cent court pro­ceed­ings, the Ir­ish Rugby Foot­ball Union and Ul­ster Rugby have re­voked the con­tracts of Pa­trick Jack­son and Stu­art Old­ing with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

‘In ar­riv­ing at this de­ci­sion, the Ir­ish Rugby Foot­ball Union and Ul­ster Rugby ac­knowl­edge our re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mit­ment to the core val­ues of the game: re­spect, in­clu­siv­ity and in­tegrity.

‘It has been agreed, as part of this com­mit­ment, to con­duct an in­depth re­view of ex­ist­ing struc­tures and ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes, within the game in Ire­land, to en­sure the im­por­tance of these core val­ues is clearly un­der­stood, sup­ported and prac­tised at ev­ery level of the game.’

It also an­nounced a third Ul­ster player – re­ferred to as CG in court, but iden­ti­fied by the MoS as Craig Gil­roy – has been sanc­tioned and will not be able to re­turn to the pitch un­til later this month.

‘Fol­low­ing a re­view of a text mes­sage sent by Craig Gil­roy, the [IRFU] and Ul­ster Rugby have sanc­tioned him, fol­low­ing a dis­ci­plinary process in ac­cor­dance with the terms of his con­tract. Craig will be un­avail­able for team se­lec­tion un­til Thurs­day, April 26, 2018.’

Last week, the MoS re­vealed how Paddy Jack­son’s and Stu­art Old­ing’s fate would be de­cided this week.

And it is be­lieved they were in­formed on Wed­nes­day that they would both be dropped.

They were sus­pended from play­ing with Ire­land and Ul­ster Rugby last July af­ter they were charged with rape of­fences. Just four months ear­lier, in March 2017, Jack­son signed a two-year con­tract with the IRFU which would have ex­pired next March.

Mean­while, through­out their sus­pen­sion from the game, it is be­lieved the two play­ers were paid a re­tainer fee. And since the out­come of the trial, their names have been linked with clubs in Eng­land, France and Ja­pan.

But yes­ter­day, no one from ei­ther the Jack­son or Old­ing camp were will­ing to talk about their fu­ture ca­reers.

The play­ers them­selves is­sued state­ments hours af­ter the IRFU made its an­nounce­ment.

Paddy Jack­son said he was ‘deeply dis­ap­pointed’ by his bosses’ de­ci­sion, adding: ‘How­ever, I recog­nise that my be­hav­iour has fallen far short of the val­ues ex­pected of me as an in­ter­na­tional player, a role model for the game of rugby and as a son and a brother. I am truly sorry. Since I was a young boy it was my am­bi­tion to play for Ul­ster and Ire­land and I am ex­tremely proud, priv­i­leged and hon­oured to have done so.

‘It is there­fore with great sad­ness and re­gret but with many cher­ished mem­o­ries that I leave that be­hind. I would like to thank ev­ery­one who has sup­ported me through­out this process. I have taken great strength from that sup­port. I’d also like to thank Ul­ster and Ir­ish rugby for the op­por­tu­ni­ties that they pro­vided for me and I wish them, and all my former team mates ev­ery suc­cess.

‘My fo­cus in the months and years ahead will be on re­build­ing the trust placed in me by peo­ple through­out Ul­ster and Ire­land.’

Mean­while, his team-mate Stu­art Old­ing said he was de­ter­mined to re­build his tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion.

‘I am very sorry that this day has come to pass. As I said out­side court, the Stu­art Old­ing that you read about in the trial is not the real Stu­art Old­ing,’ he said.

‘The treat­ment that I have re­ceived since my ac­quit­tal, both fair and un­fair, has made me even more de­ter­mined to prove my­self.’

‘Core val­ues of re­spect, in­clu­siv­ity and in­tegrity’ ‘My fo­cus will be on re­build­ing trust in me’

text mes­sage shame: Stu­art Old­ing, left, and Paddy Jack­son

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