The full story: How two Irish rugby players found themselves facing French justice after a rape investigation

Two worlds collided with devastating consequences in the French city of Bordeaux on the night of March 11, 2017.

C Grenoble was in town for a Top 14 rugby match against local team Union Bordeaux Bègles.

Perhaps because of a 46-14 hammering by the hosts, members of the Grenoble playing squad decided to go to a pub and nightclub after the match.

Also out that night was a 21-year-old student who was attending a birthday party.

According to testimony given to prosecutors and reported in a French newspaper The worldshe woke up the next morning naked in a hotel room in the suburb of Mérignac surrounded by rugby players, some of whom she had met the previous night.

Later that day, she filed a complaint with the police, alleging that she had been gang-raped. It is claimed that a crutch was used in the alleged assault.

FC Grenoble had a large Irish contingent at the time.

His head coach was former Connacht, Leinster and Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman and his backroom team included former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast.

There was also a green tint in the team. The Irish players included Dubliner Denis Coulson, a former international Under-20 prop.

Educated at St Michael’s College Dublin, Mr Coulson is the nephew of one of Ireland’s wealthiest men, Paul Coulson.

Another member of the team was Chris Farrell, a center from Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone, who was educated at Campbell College in Belfast.

Denis Coulson and Chris Farrell would both be questioned about the woman’s allegations.

Mr Coulson then joined Connacht before moving to Stade Français in France and later Carcassonne. He now plays for Leinster League side Bective Rangers, where Mr Jackman is the head coach.

Mr. Farrell moved on to Munster and has remained there ever since. He played 15 times for Ireland, making the Grand Slam squad in 2018 as well as the World Cup squad in 2019.

After a chilling investigation and legal process, the Bordeaux Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday, five and a half years after the alleged incident, that the cases against five former Grenoble players should be referred to the Court of Appeal. assizes of Gironde, a court which hears serious criminal trials.

Mr. Coulson (28) and two others, New Zealander Rory Grice (32) and Frenchman Loïck Jammes (27) face rape charges.

The Bordeaux Court of Appeal also considered that there was “the presence of sufficient evidence” to dismiss two other former Grenoble players, Mr. Farrell (29) and New Zealander Dylan Hayes (28), for allegedly “failing to stop a crime”.

Hours after the decision, Munster Rugby issued a statement to the Irish Independent saying it had been agreed with Mr Farrell that he would ‘renounce his involvement with the Munster team as legal proceedings in France regarding his alleged involvement as a witness to an alleged crime in 2017 are ongoing “.

The course of action was backed by the IRFU, who said Mr Farrell would also not be available for selection for Ireland.

Mr. Coulson’s future playing prospects are not yet clear.

A spokesperson for Bective Rangers and Mr Jackman said they were unable to comment.

The five former Grenoble players can appeal the decision to seize the criminal court. It is understood that any appeal at this stage should be on a legal point rather than on the facts of the case.

Mr. Coulson was represented by Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt, a renowned lawyer based in Paris who French GQ once ranked among the 30 most powerful legal eagles in France.

Among his clients are the late businessman and controversial politician Bernard Tapie.

Ms Dreyfus-Schmidt did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, but previously claimed the plaintiff’s accusations were not sufficient to bring the case to criminal court as they had been contradicted by others testimonials.

The pace of investigations and legal proceedings in France has been very slow by international standards.

Indictments against Mr. Coulson, Mr. Grice and Mr. Jammes were proposed as early as 2019, but the case did not move forward at the time. Instead, it ended up being considered further by the Bordeaux Court of Appeal, which issued its decision to forward the case on Thursday.

Although Mr Farrell and Mr Hayes were among those questioned by police in 2017, French media reported that it was only last year that they were indicted by an investigating judge named for allegedly “failing to stop a crime”.

As was the case in the Belfast rape trial, which also involved rugby players, the issue of consent will be a central issue to consider.

French media reported that the players accused of rape do not deny that sexual activity took place. However, they insist the woman consented, and a video – filmed on a mobile phone during the alleged incident – has been produced to investigators to back up that claim.

A 26-page indictment document, the content of which was reported by The worldclaims the opposite.

The student feared that she had been “too drunk to be able to react and say no”.

In the document, a prosecutor argued that the claim that the woman freely consented to a sex orgy could not be validly accepted.

A toxicology expert estimated that the student’s blood alcohol level was between 2.2 and 3 grams per liter of blood that evening.

The document, it was reported, says a night porter described the woman as drunk and sleepy or dizzy when she arrived at the hotel around 4 a.m.

He said the sexual acts were immediately followed by the psychological breakdown of the young woman, who, the document adds, suffered from tears, choking, tremors and disorientation.

He had been shown the video and watching it had been unbearable for him, he added.

The document says there were “numerous testimonies” describing the young woman as “lost and shocked” the next morning.

He said that a receptionist at the hotel had to tell him where she was.

The woman allegedly told the taxi driver who had taken her home: “They raped me. There were several. »

Before her taxi arrived, a couple staying at the hotel were awakened by the sound of her crying as she waited in the parking lot.

It’s unclear how soon the case will progress in the Assize Court as it has been reported that at least one of the players, Loick Jammes, intends to appeal.

His lawyer, Denis Dreyfus, previously claimed there were “too many doubts” about the issue of consent for there to be a trial.

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