Monday 29 May 2017

Jackson still in Ireland mix despite police quiz over alleged sex offences

Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson Picture: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in Chicago

Paddy Jackson could be back playing with Ireland as early as next week despite being questioned by police over alleged sex offences.

The Irish management has not ruled Jackson out of its remaining November internationals, despite the controversy surrounding the out-half.

It emerged the 24-year-old underwent police questioning along with his Ulster and Ireland team-mate Stuart Olding in relation to an alleged sexual assault in Belfast last June.

The players both strongly denied the allegations in statements issued yesterday.

Jackson's lawyers, KRW Law, issued a statement saying he "rejects completely any allegations made against him".

"Patrick has co-operated fully with police in their inquiries and we have been liaising with police on his behalf," said solicitor Kevin Winters.

"We are both disappointed and indeed concerned that this information has been leaked to the press before the investigation has concluded and well in advance of any final decision. This has the potential to be prejudicial to our client's interests.

Speculation

Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt Picture: Sportsfile
Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt Picture: Sportsfile

"We will not hesitate to take all necessary steps to protect his legal position, as he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. We urge the media to restrain from any damaging speculation."

Solicitor Joe Rice, on behalf of Mr Olding, issued a statement which said: "We wish to emphasise that he completely rejects any allegations of wrongdoing made against him and is confident his name will be cleared in due course.

"Our client has fully co-operated with the PSNI in their inquiries and is of previous good character.

"It is disappointing that this information has been made public before the police investigation has even been completed.

"We wish to point out that we will take any necessary steps to safeguard our client's legal position and to uphold his right to the presumption of innocence," Mr Rice said.

Earlier this week, the Irish management left Jackson out of the squad for Saturday's game against New Zealand in Chicago, as they cited "personal reasons".

Yesterday, assistant coach Andy Farrell gave a press conference at the team's base at the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

"I think there's been a bit said about it already and Ulster have come out and made a statement this morning.

"We'll reference you to that and we'll get on with our own business," the former England international said.

"We've got a big week ahead of us here in Chicago.

"We've had very little preparation. Our focus has to be on the game and we'll make no further comment."

Fixture

Farrell refused to confirm whether Jackson would have been involved in this week's match had the fixture been set for Dublin.

However, the IRFU later clarified that while he won't feature in Ulster's game against Edinburgh this weekend, Jackson is currently available for selection for the remaining games.

Read more: Jackson 'available for selection' for Ireland's remaining November tests after police questioning over alleged sexual offences

Both Jackson and Olding started Ireland's last game against South Africa in June - and Jackson would have been on the bench for the international against the world champions.

Olding is currently out of action with a hip-flexor injury but would have been expected to be part of the squad had he been fit.

A statement from Ulster rugby confirmed: "Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been assisting the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) with inquiries."

It added: "The players deny any wrongdoing and have not been charged with any offence.

"As no charges have been brought forward, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Profile: Rugby's social media favourite

Paddy JAackson has a whole career's worth of experience under his belt after early promotion to the senior ranks at Ulster and Ireland.

The out-half's great potential was evident as he represented his province and country at underage level. He made his senior Ulster debut as a 19-year-old in February 2011 and won his first cap for Ireland a year later at Murrayfield.

Ireland lost but it was all part of a steep learning curve as the youngster also started that season's Heineken Cup final against Leinster, enduring a difficult afternoon.

Outside of his exploits on the field, Jackson has become a social media favourite as videos of him larking around at training camps have gone viral.

The 24-year-old has a following of more than 44,000 on Instagram and a clip of Jackson lip-syncing to the JCB song lit up YouTube in 2015. Jackson has stepped away from the role of online joker recently, though, as he has taken on more responsibility on the pitch with Ulster and Ireland.

He said in an interview this year: "I haven't put anything up for a while.

"It's a fine balance, being a leader and a bit of a joker. You don't want to change your personality, but it can be difficult sometimes, so I've kind of taken a back seat on it. Maybe I'll leave it for the off-season."

Irish Independent

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