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Craig Gilroy the third Ulster player to be linked to a series of controversial WhatsApp messages at the centre of nine-week rape trial

Ulster Rugby's Craig Gilroy pictured at Laganside Magistrates court in Belfast on day two of the rape trial. Picture by Pacemaker

ULSTER Rugby has been urged to release its players’ code of conduct amid growing pressure on the club after it was revealed that a third player is linked to the series of controversial WhatsApp messages at the centre of the nine-week rape trial.

Ireland winger Craig Gilroy (27), who attended the second day of the trial alongside Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best and two clubmates, has been revealed as the person who sent a message using offensive terms about women.

Two other players, Iain Henderson and Kyle McCall, attended the trial on January 31.

Mr Best says he attended because he had been called as a character witness.

The person who sent the message was known only as ‘CG’ during the trial. When asked by The Irish News last week, the team said “no other members of Ulster Rugby” were connected to the case.

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However, it has been confirmed that Mr Gilroy was ‘CG’. The court heard that he sent a message to Mr Olding asking: “Any sluts get f***ed?”, to which his friend replied: “Precious secrets.”

On February 14, Mr Gilroy, who has 10 Ireland caps, announced that he had signed a fresh deal for another three years with Ulster.

It is not clear when team bosses learned of his connection to the messages.

Yesterday Ulster Rugby said it had never denied Mr Gilroy’s involvement but declined to comment further.

“The IRFU and Ulster Rugby have advised that a review process in relation to this matter is under way and it would be inappropriate to comment on any matter pertaining to that process until it is completed,” a spokesman said.

South Belfast Green Party MLA Clare Bailey was strongly critical of the club.

She said the “world is watching” to see the result of the review process.

“People across Ireland are making it very, very clear that they want to see this addressed,” she said.

“Ulster Rugby has to address the attitudes and behaviours of its players. They are role models, in a position of influence and power. Their attitude to women has been laid bare during the course of the trial.”

The revelation will put increasing pressure on Ulster Rugby which is already under scrutiny from major sponsors. Ulster Rugby derives £2.5 million of its total £9.8m income from sponsorship deals, which could be in jeopardy if the brand is seen to be tarnished.

One of its most prominent sponsors, BT, had already been “in contact” with the team after the revelations about the conduct of Mr Jackson and Mr Olding during the course of the trial.

The fact that a third player is known to have been involved in the messages, which caused anger and disgust by the way they refer to women, will increase the pressure.

Top rugby players are regarded as role models. Mr Gilroy launched last year’s Coca Cola-sponsored campaign appealing for people to give the ‘gift of a lift’ with the ‘Designated Driver’ initiative at Christmas.

The IRFU, for whom he also plays, receives €10.5m in commercial income of total revenue of €73m.

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