August 23, 2017 / 11:41 AM / 10 months ago

Rape case against two Ireland rugby internationals begins

BELFAST (Reuters) - A legal case against two Ireland rugby internationals accused of raping a woman in Belfast last year began in a Northern Irish court on Wednesday.

Ireland's Paddy Jackson kicks at goal, November 12, 2016. Reuters / Clodagh Kilcoyne Livepic

Ireland flyhalf Paddy Jackson, 25, was charged in Northern Ireland last month with one count of rape and one of sexual assault while Ulster teammate Stuart Olding, 24, faces two counts of rape.

Neither man was required to be in the Belfast court for the opening of the case on Wednesday but their lawyers said they strongly denied the accusations and were ready to appear in person whenever required.

Ireland's Stuart Olding scores a try against Georgia during their international rugby test match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin November 16, 2014. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Joe Rice, a lawyer representing Olding, told the court he did not accept there was sufficient evidence to return his client for trial in relation to one of the rape charges.

The case was adjourned to a further hearing on Sept. 6. Neither player will play at club or national level until the court process is concluded, the Irish Rugby Football Union said last month.

Jackson has played 25 tests for Ireland, mainly as an understudy to British and Irish Lions flyhalf Johnny Sexton. Olding has represented his country four times at center.

Reporting by Ian Graham; editing by Padraic Halpin/Mark Heinrich

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