Northern Ireland news

Rory Best tells of 'difficult' time following appearance during rugby rape trial

Ireland rugby star Rory Best has spoken about the "difficult" time he experienced as a result of the outrage caused by his appearance at a high profile rape trial last year
Marie Louise McConville

Ireland rugby star Rory Best has spoken about the "difficult" time he experienced as a result of the outrage caused by his appearance at a high profile rape trial last year.

The Ulster hooker, who has more than 100 caps for Ireland, was widely criticised for attending Belfast Crown Court where team mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were standing trial for the rape of a 19-year-old student.

Both men were later cleared of all charges.

The Co Armagh sportsman was photographed at court days before Ireland’s Six Nations match against France last year.

As a result, there were widespread calls for Best to give up the Irish captaincy with the hashtag #NotMyCaptain trending on Twitter.

A review into how sexual assault cases are handled was begun earlier this year following the high-profile trial of rugby players Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson, who were acquitted of rape

It was revealed, however, that Best had attended the trial because he was "on record as a character witness".

Speaking this week, the rugby star said: "It's very difficult even if you get a feeling that one person doesn't want you there, never mind, there was obviously quite a few".

"Nobody wants to be in that position especially when you're representing an island, you want to be that figurehead, the one that everyone wants there. I did think long and hard, it was not a particularly pleasant time for anyone concerned".

He added: "It was such a sensitive subject, it wasn't something you could talk about, nobody wanted to talk about it and rightly so, just leave it to run its course, once I saw the sort of outcry.

"It's one of those times when you feel that the spotlight is on you and all you really want to do is crawl under a rock somewhere.

"... I felt as long as I had the support from my peers and my coaches, it's a dream of mine to do it and I don't want to give it up."

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