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Hard partying Ulster rugby players cause rift in dressing room

Details of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Oldings party lifestyles were read in court. Picture Mal McCann.

THE Christian, family-orientated reputation that many Ulster Rugby players have credited with keeping them in Northern Ireland has been damaged by the party lifestyle of players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding that formed part of the nine week rape trial.

While the pair, along with friends Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, were found not guilty by a unanimous jury verdict on Wednesday, they still face an internal disciplinary hearing to see if they will be allowed to return to the rugby pitch.

The WhatsApp messages read to the court, in which the men used derogatory and dehumanising language to describe the women in their company, is expected to form part of that hearing, to establish if they breached the terms of their employment contract.

Sources say recent events have caused a rift in the changing room at Kingspan where many of the players remain devout Christians and are said to be horrified at the behaviour of the younger team members.

Read more: Campaign groups hit out at 'middle class' women remarks in rape case

Andrew Trimble was the first Ulster player to publicly talk about his faith when he first broke into the team, but others were quick to follow.

Former captain Johann Muller said he based his decision on whether to relocate to Northern Ireland on a religious experience.

In and interview in 2011 he said; "Me and my wife made a decision that when I hit 30, we wanted to move overseas. I met David Humphreys and he flew to South Africa to try and sell Ulster to me. We were 70 per cent sure, but we then went to church a week later.

"There was an evangelist over from Manchester and out of nowhere he said, ‘sir, can you stand up’ pointing at me. I did as I was told, and I was kind of shocked, but then he said ‘God has opened a door for you and he wants you to take it’. The guy told me he saw me over here and was using me for his works. It was a wonderful confirmation and we didn’t need to think twice".

Read more: Paddy Jackson can make bid to recover legal defence costs

Campaigning doctor urges rape victims to seek help at pioneering support centre

Ruan Pienaar, a scrumhalf from Bloemfontein in South Africa, also said he turned down lucrative offers from places such as France and England to remain in Northern Ireland.

"I have always believed with my Christianity that there’s so much more to life than rugby. I said to my wife before we came here that we had to be strong in our faith and I believe that God gave me a door to walk through here at Ulster.

“Being here gives me an enormous sense of purpose, I am not just here for rugby, I’m here to touch lives", he said.

While there was no official comment from Ulster Rugby last night on the length of time it will take for the disciplinary process into Jackson and Olding's future playing careers, sources have said it will be a matter of weeks rather than months.

 

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