Ulster rugby expected to announce Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's departure

Ulster rugby expected to announce Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's departure

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's departure from Ulster Rugby is expected to be announced imminently.

A statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby is anticipated on Saturday, the Press Association understands.

It is understood a number of final contractual issues were still to be ironed out on Friday, so confirmation could be delayed to the start of next week.

The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have been carrying out a review into the players' future in the wake of their acquittal on rape charges last month.

A jury of eight men and three women found Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, unanimously not guilty of rape after deliberating for three hours and 45 minutes after a marathon nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

All jurors also acquitted Jackson of sexual assault.

Two other men, Blane McIlroy, 26, and Rory Harrison, 25, were also unanimously acquitted of lesser charges connected to the case.

The Ulster Rugby and IRFU review has focused on a series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations revealed during the trial involving the players and their friends.

A number of the club's main sponsors expressed concern at the fallout following the court case and called on it to conclude its review swiftly.

Around 250 people staged a protest outside Ulster Rugby's stadium on Friday night ahead of the team's first home game since the two players were acquitted of rape.

They were found not guilty of raping the same woman at a house party at Jackson's home.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Kingspan Stadium in east Belfast ahead of Ulster's Pro14 match against the Ospreys to express solidarity with the woman at the centre of the case and call for changes to how complainants in rape trials are treated by the criminal justice system.

They also called for action against what they claim is a misogynistic culture within rugby.

The picket was organised by the Belfast Feminist Network.

An intense debate on the players' future has been played out in newsprint and online since the verdicts.

Campaigners calling for Jackson and Olding to be axed took out a prominent newspaper advert last week.

Supporters demanding their reinstatement followed suit with their own newspaper advert this week.

Thousands of people on both sides of the argument have also signed competing online petitions reflecting their views.

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