Door still open for Jackson, Olding to play for Ireland - says IRFU official
THE door remains open for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to return to Irish rugby, according to one of the game's most influential powerbrokers.
David Nucifora, the IRFU's performance director who signs off on all contracts from the provinces, said the possibility of them playing in Ireland again could not be ruled out.
Jackson and Olding were acquitted on all charges at the end of their high-profile rape trial in March. However, the Ulster players had their contracts revoked by the union in April and have since signed with clubs in France.
Olding (25) joined second-tier side Brive, while 26-year-old Jackson's deal with recently promoted Perpignan was confirmed earlier this month.
However, like all overseas-based Irish players, the pair will not be considered for international selection while they ply their trade abroad.
Messages exchanged between the pair and friends, that appeared in evidence, were found to have fallen below the standards expected of them by their employers and they were dismissed.
In the aftermath of the acquittals, there were protests calling for changes in how the justice system deals with women during rape trials.
Ulster chief executive Shane Logan, who has since announced his own departure, refused to rule out a potential return for the duo in the immediate aftermath of their dismissal.
And now Nucifora suggested they might return to Ireland in the longer term.
"It's not one for me to say, but I don't think we can make a comment on that," he replied when asked if they are out of the picture for Ireland for the rest of their careers.
He added: "But I don't think anything is ever forever. Who knows what could happen or we what will happen?
"For the immediate future, there's no thought that they will be considered.
"They are playing overseas so at the moment if you're playing overseas, you're not considered."
The Australian, who holds responsibility for the performance of the game in Ireland, said efforts were being made to try to ensure that players understand their responsibilities in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the damaging saga.
"There's always been ongoing education and I think that has been reviewed, how we can make that better," he said.
"That it still being worked on, looking at how we can continue to better the education of our players across all areas of social responsibility.
"That is being done, has been done and will continue to be worked on.
"The players now have found new contracts so that's a positive for them personally, individually, and everyone just has to move on from that.
"It was a tough year in regards to that for the players, for Ulster and for rugby in general.
"Hopefully, we don't go through that ever again."
Following the high profile nine-week case, the professional body for players, Rugby Players Ireland, announced it would be introducing "sexual health and relationships" classes.
They will form part of the body's wellbeing workshops.