Former Ireland captain Rory Best regrets being ‘used’ during rugby rape trial

Former Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has spoken at length about his regret at attending the rape trial involving fellow Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 1:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 6:20 pm
Rory Best has spoken to Off The Ball about his regrets over his attendance at Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's trial
Rory Best has spoken to Off The Ball about his regrets over his attendance at Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's trial

Best was in court during day two of 2018 Crown Court trial having been advised to attend by Jackson’s defence counsel ahead of potential appearance as a character witness.

In an interview with Irish radio show Off The Ball published onine last night Best said he felt he was “used” by the defence team during the trial which saw Jackson acquitted of rape and sexual assault and Olding cleared of rape.

Best’s appearance at the trial, just days ahead of a Six Nations clash with France, was discussed in ex-Ireland’s coach Joe Schmidt’s recent autobiography and came under intense criticism on social media at the time. Best had been willing to give up his captaincy following the backlash.

He told Off The Ball: “Part of your job is to protect the team ... I felt that with what had happened (on day two of the trial), it had done the opposite, I had brought more external pressure on the team when the rugby pressure was enough to try to handle.”

Best said he was asked by Jackson, whom he considered a “friend in need”, to be a potential character witness, and having agreed he was advised by Jackson’s legal team to attend court but had not sought independent advice.

He was challenged as to whether he believed his appearance could be seen as anything other than the Irish captain putting his weight behind the defendants.

The 37-year-old who retired last summer after captaining Ireland for three years, said: “I’ll be the first to admit that I was unbelievably naive to think that isn’t the way that it would be brought across, but I can assure you that it was never my intention.

“Ultimately, I’m a trusting person and I look back now and I do think that I was used.”

He added: “I was, like I say, naive enough to think that I could go there as a friend. I accept exactly what you’re saying and ultimately, you go to all these roles as a captain.

“I don’t know why I thought this would be different. But, look, ultimately I did. That is one of the things I’m very sorry for. It was never, ever my intention to cause any more distress in what was a very, very difficult day for that poor girl anyway.”

Much of his interview with Off The Ball discussed the trial appearance: “I think why I struggle to talk about it so much is because obviously I know I made that mistake.

“I don’t want people to think that I want people to feel sorry for me – there are five people who are trying to rebuild their lives that have been through a lot more than me.”