Rory Best declines to comment on attendance at rape trial

Simon Lewis

Ireland captain Rory Best has declined the opportunity to explain his decision to attend the rape trial of his Ulster and international team-mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Best, who will lead Ireland against France in the Six Nations clash in Paris on Saturday afternoon, spent his day off on Wednesday attending Belfast Crown Court along with Test team-mate Iain Henderson and Ulster wing Craig Gilroy.

The alleged victim took the witness stand on the same day.

Rory Best declines to comment on attendance at rape trial

Jackson, from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and Olding, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June 2016. Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

At the start of his regular pre-match press conference following the Ireland team's captain's run, which took place at Stade de France on Friday, Best was asked if he could explain why he went to the trial on Wednesday.

“No I have no comment,” was the captain's response.

“Can you tell us whether you were given permission from the IRFU?” came the next question, to which Best replied: “No comment”.

The Ireland skipper was also asked for his comments on the controversy his attendance at court had prompted on social media, at which point IRFU and Irish team communications manager David O Siochain intervened, saying: “Sorry, we're not going to react to comments on social media. We're here to comment on the game. Keep it game

focused.”

Best was more forthcoming on Ireland's championship-opening fixture in Paris, saying last year's round-one defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield, when the home side jumped into an early 14-0 lead, was a setback his team could not afford a second season in succession.

Talking about possibly losing to the off-form French, he said: “It would just put so much pressure on you.

“We've talked about how we let the start of the Championship last year get away from us. But in terms of just the pressure, it's not so much even about a defeat in the first game, it's about the opening exchanges.

“Regardless of the scoreboard you've got to feel you're in the game in the early exchanges.”

Paddy Jackson and Rory Best.
Paddy Jackson and Rory Best.


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