Irish rugby stars to stand trial on rape charges

Two Ireland and Ulster rugby stars are to stand trial on charges of rape, a court has ruled.

Paddy Jackson, 25, and Stuart Olding, 24, appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday for a preliminary investigation into the accusations against them.

It was the first time the pair were required to attend court proceedings since being charged.

After considering legal arguments from prosecution and defence barristers District Judge George Conner ruled there was enough evidence to return the pair for Crown Court trial.

They were required to stand in the body of the court, alongside another two co-accused, while the charges against them were read.

Both men are accused of raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast in June last year.

Olding, of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with two counts of rape.

Jackson, from Oakleigh Park, Belfast, is accused of one count of rape and one of sexual assault.

Fly-half Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times and centre Olding has played four times. They are established stars for Ulster Rugby.

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have said they will not play again until court proceedings conclude.

Two other men were also returned for trial on charges connected with the incident.

Blane McIlroy, 25, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

All men were released on their own bail of £500.

The date of the trial has yet to be fixed.

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