Northern Ireland news

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding 'could play for Ireland again'

Former Ulster and Ireland players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

FORMER Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding could potentially play for their country again, a senior Irish official has indicated.

Following a high-profile nine-week trial earlier this year, the pair were acquitted of raping a young woman at a house party in 2016.

Despite being found not guilty, Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) announced in April Jackson (26) and Olding (25) were being sacked over their conduct after lewd WhatsApp messages were revealed during the trial.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora told a press conference the pair could return to Irish rugby at some point but said they are not being considered for selection in "the immediate future".

Speaking ahead of Ireland's third Test in Australia, he said: "I don't think anything is ever forever".

Jackson and Olding have recently joined French clubs.

Jackson has joined Perpignan for next season while Olding has signed for Brive.

IRFU rules only allow players to be considered for Ireland selection if they play for Irish clubs.

At a press conference, Nucifora was asked whether Jackson or Olding could play again for Ireland.

"Who knows what could happen or what will happen?" he said.

"The players now have found new contracts so that is a positive for them personally, individually, and everyone just has to move on from that.

"For the immediate future, there's no thought that they will be considered. They are playing overseas at the moment. If you are playing overseas, you are not considered."

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