Sale last night announced they will not be signing Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.
The Ulster and Ireland backs were acquitted of rape in March but had their contracts terminated after other aspects of their behaviour that came to light during the trial were heavily criticised. It is understood that Sale explored the possibility of taking Jackson and Olding to the AJ Bell Stadium for next season only for the club’s hierarchy to decide against it.
Opposition to the signings among swathes of Sharks supporters had grown since news of the club’s interest surfaced on Tuesday and included the creation of a petition on Facebook, notification of which was posted on the club’s website.
“We can confirm there is no substance to the rumours currently circulating in relation to the signing of the two international rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding,” Sale’s statement read.
“Our search continues for top-class players to bolster the squad for next season.”
While Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, were found not guilty after a high-profile trial, major sponsors of Ulster Rugby voiced concern over their conduct.
The review conducted by club and country had focused on a series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations involving the players and their friends about the sexual encounter at the centre of the rape trial.
The messages, which referred to women in derogatory terms, were presented as evidence during the marathon nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.
Jackson and Olding had been accused of raping the same woman at a house party at Jackson’s home in June 2016.
Sale have previously made a success of signing players who come with baggage — among them Danny Cipriani and James O’Connor — but their wariness of the Ulster outcasts suggests they are unlikely to find a home in the Aviva Premiership.
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