'On the brink' - possible Stuart Olding Premiership switch imminent - reports
Former Ulster Rugby player Stuart Olding is continuing to be heavily linked with a move to the Premiership, with one newspaper claiming the centre is ‘on the brink’ of signing a contract.
Yesterday Ulster Rugby and the IRFU revoked both Jackson and Olding’s contract with “immediate effect” as a result of the fallout over their nine week rape trial – in which both men were acquitted.
It’s also being reported that the pair are to receive a payout close to the value of their ‘revoked’ contracts.
The Irish Sunday Independent are reporting today that the players and the IRFU came to a mutual agreement of sorts that would see their contracts ended, but with much of the value of the contracts to be paid out in a settlement.
According to The Sunday World Olding is close to a deal that would see him move to English champions Exeter Chiefs. Both he and teammate Paddy Jackson have been heavily linked to the club in recent weeks.
With Stuart Olding’s Ulster contract – now revoked – being estimated as between €100,000 and €150,000 per annum, it is likely that Exeter could now pick up the international centre for significantly less than that.
Jackson, on the other hand, has been linked with a move to both the Premiership and the Top 14.
One transfer rumour has Jackson moving to Montpellier. How much sense this move makes is questionable with All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden just coming to the end of the first year of a three year, €2.1 million euro contract.
Meanwhile, writing for RugbyPass, former Ulster and Ireland flanker Neil Best, has criticised the effective sacking of the pair.
The outspoken Best wrote: “At the heart of this whole situation has been a sense of betrayal – firstly by the players of the values of their families and the club, and now by the club of young men, products of their youth system – now sacrificed – not seen to be on the altar or morals and ethics but perceived to be on the altar of sponsorship and money.”
Both Jackson and Olding declared their public disappointment at the cancellation of their contract and have vowed to go about the business of rebuilding their careers and reputations.
In a statement to the Press Association, Jackson said: “I am deeply disappointed about the outcome of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby’s internal review.
“However, I recognise that my behaviour has fallen far short of the values expected of me as an international player, a role model for the game of rugby and as a son and a brother. I am truly sorry.
“Since I was a young boy it was my ambition to play for Ulster and Ireland and I am extremely proud, privileged and honoured to have done so. It is therefore with great sadness and regret but with many cherished memories that I leave that behind.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this process. I have taken great strength from that support. I’d also like to thank Ulster and Irish rugby for the opportunities that they provided for me and I wish them, and all my former teammates, every success.
“My focus in the months and years ahead will be on rebuilding the trust placed in me by people throughout Ulster and Ireland.”
Stuart Olding said influences outside of his ‘contractual arrangement’ have made his continued employment impossible.
It said: “It is with regret that I have been informed that the IRFU have decided to revoke my contract.
“As I said outside court following my acquittal, I am and will always be fiercely proud of having played for my province and country.
“I very much wished to continue to have the opportunity to represent them.
“Regrettably, influences outside of my contractual arrangement have made it impossible for that to happen.
“I said outside court that the Stuart Olding that you read about in the trial is not the real Stuart Olding. The treatment that I have received since my acquittal, both fair and unfair, has made me even more determined to prove myself.”
“With the support of my family and friends I shall seek new challenges elsewhere. I bear no one any ill will.
“I am very sorry that this day has come to pass.
“To those who have supported me through these last 20 months and especially the fans who continue to support me, I thank you all.”
The two, who were banned from playing pending the trial, had pleaded not guilty to charges over the alleged incident on June 28, 2016.
The decision to part ways with the players comes after the IRFU and Ulster Rugby conducted an internal review following Jackson and Olding’s acquittal last month.
The review focused on a series of explicit group text conversations involving the players and their friends, which was revealed during the trial.
Two other men, Blane McIlroy, 26, and Rory Harrison, 25, were also acquitted of their respective charges in relation to the case.
The incident has sparked protests outside the club grounds, and several club sponsors have expressed concern following the case.
Yesterday, Ulster sponsor Bank of Ireland issued a statement to the Irish Independent.
“As a sponsor of Ulster Rugby, Bank of Ireland is highly concerned regarding the serious behaviour and conduct issues which have emerged as a result of the recent high profile trial. The Bank has formally conveyed these concerns to the CEO of Ulster Rugby,” the statement read.
“It is of paramount importance to Bank of Ireland that our sponsorship activity aligns with and supports our core values, and reflects positively on Bank of Ireland through association”.
26-year-old flyhalf Jackson has made 25 appearances for Ireland since 2013, while 25-year-old Olding has made four.
Ulster wing Craig Gilroy has been spared the axe for by the IRFU, who have instead chosen to sanction the player over the sending of a text message.
The IRFU have stated: “Following a review of a text message sent by Craig Gilroy, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have sanctioned him, following a disciplinary process in accordance with the terms of his contract.
“Craig will be unavailable for team selection until 26th April 2018.”
Gilroy was revealed as a participant and sender of a Whats Apps message, details of which were revealed as part of the 9 week rape trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.
It is understood Gilroy sent a message asking Olding: “Any sluts get f***ed?”.
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