England rugby star accused of rape insists he 'absolutely' respects women, court told
A professional rugby union player has told a jury he did not rape a woman he met on Tinder and insisted he respected women.
Zach Kibirige plays for Newcastle Falcons and is studying for a psychology degree, having gained three A grades at A-level, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
He has played for England Under-17s through to the Under-20s side, as well as the Sevens team, he told the jury.
The 21-year-old denies four counts of rape, attempted rape, sexual assault and assault by penetration.
He was charged with subjecting the woman, who cannot be named, to a series of sexual offences over a period of about an hour after he went round to her home in November.
Kibirige's barrister, Nicholas Lumley QC, beginning the defence case, asked him: "Did you rape (the complainant)?"
The 5ft10in defendant replied from the witness box: "Absolutely not."
Mr Lumley then asked: "Did you do anything with her against her will?"
Kibirige replied: "No, I did not."
Mr Lumley asked: "Did you go round to her flat to rape her?"
Kibirige, who was born in Middlesbrough and brought up in Yarm, Teesside, replied: "No."
He told the court he has three older brothers and an older sister and that his mother died four years ago.
His talent for rugby emerged while at school and he was selected to play for regional sides before being picked up by England.
He told the court he had never been sent off. He has no previous convictions, cautions or police reprimands.
He carries out charity work for the Falcons Community Foundation and is an ambassador for the Dallaglio Foundation, he told the court.
In November he was not playing for the Falcons as he was still recovering from an ankle injury, the court heard.
Kibirige was single at the time of the alleged rape. Mr Lumley told jurors they may hear evidence from his current girlfriend.
Mr Lumley asked Kibirige: "Have you ever had any difficulty with any girlfriends?"
The player replied: "No."
The barrister asked him: "Do you respect women?"
Kibirige replied: "Absolutely."
Mr Lumley asked: "Was that a key part of the way you were brought up?"
Kibirige replied: "Most definitely."
He denied taking advantage of his "local celebrity".
He said he met the complainant at her home for the first time after they swapped WhatsApp messages, having initially matched on Tinder.
He was sober on the night he went round and claimed they started to watch the film Superbad in her bedroom.
Mr Lumley asked: "Did she seem to you intimidated by you?"
Kibirige replied: "Not in any way."
Mr Lumley asked: "Were you treating each other as equals?"
The player said: "I would say so."