Wednesday 18 September 2019

Rory Best declines to explain decision to attend rape trial of teammates

Rory Best. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Rory Best. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Paris

Ireland captain Rory Best opted not to explain his decision to attend the trial of his Ulster and Ireland teammates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding at his Captain's Run press conference at the Stade de France this morning.

He also declined to comment on whether the IRFU had any prior knowledge of his attendance at Belfast Crown Court during his day off on Wednesday.

After two questions of Best's regular pre-game engagement, the IRFU media manager stepped in to say that Best would only talk about tomorrow's Six Nations opener against France at the Parisian venue.

Later, when asked if he was aware of the controversy on social media around his involvement due to his decision on Wednesday, the press officer again stepped in before Best could reply.

Best attended court proceedings alongside Ireland second-row Iain Henderson and Ulster team-mate Craig Gilroy.

Jackson and Olding are accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in June 2016, with Jackson also facing an additional charge of sexual assault. They both deny the charges.

A third man, former Ulster Academy player Blane McIlroy, is charged with indecent exposure, while ex-UCD and Belfast Harlequins player Rory Harrison is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

All four deny the charges.

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When asked about Ireland's unusual position as favourites in tomorrow's game, Best said the team were not getting carried away.

"I don't think the favourites tag is something we've talked about. By and large we give the opposition the respect we deserve, we treat every opposition as they come and study them," Best said.

"Our record here hasn't been great, we've stressed that to the guys who haven't been here before. That Champ win four years ago came down to the wire, we got a slice of luck but you make your own luck.

"Our standards are very high, we've players who are used to winning and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform and put pressure on each other."

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