The full story: How two Irish rugby players faced a French court after a rape investigation

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

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

Members of the Grenoble squad, perhaps weakened by a 46-14 hammer from the hosts, decided to head to a pub and nightclub after the game.

A 21-year-old student was also out that evening, attending a birthday party.

According to a report given to prosecutors and reported in a French newspaper Le Mondeshe woke up the next morning naked in a hotel room in the suburb of Merignac, surrounded by rugby players, some of whom she had met the night before.

Later that day she made a complaint to the police, claiming that she had been the victim of a gang rape. It is alleged that a crutch was used during the alleged attack.

FC Grenoble had a significant Irish contingent at the time.

His head coach was former Connacht, Leinster, and Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman, and his backroom team consisted of former Scrum half of Munster, Mike Prendergast.

There was also a green cast in the squad. Ireland players included Dubliner Denis Coulson, a former U20 international.

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

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

Both Denis Coulson and Chris Farrell would be questioned in connection with the woman’s claims.

Mr Coulson later joined Connacht before moving on to the Stade Francais in France and later Carcassonne. He now competes for Leinster League club Bective Rangers, where Mr Jackman is head coach.

Mr. Farrell moved to Munster and has stayed there ever since. He has played 15 times for Ireland and was part of the 2018 Grand Slam squad and part of the 2019 World Cup squad.

After a freezing investigation and trial, an appeals court in Bordeaux ruled on Thursday, five and a half years after the alleged incident, that cases against five former Grenoble players should be referred to the Assises Court of Gironde, a court that takes seriously criminal proceedings.

Mr Coulson, 28, and two others, New Zealander Rory Grice, 32, and Frenchman Loick Jammes, 27, are charged with rape.

The Bordeaux Court of Appeal also found there was “sufficient evidence” to refer two other ex-Grenoble players, Mr Farrell, 29, and New Zealander Dylan Hayes, 28, for alleged “failure to complete a crime”.

Within hours of the decision, Munster Rugby released a statement to the Irish Independent He said it was agreed with Mr Farrell that he would “resign from his involvement with the Munster side while court proceedings are pending in France over his alleged involvement as a witness to an alleged crime in 2017”.

The course of action was backed by the IRFU, who said Mr Farrell would not stand for Ireland either.

Mr Coulson’s future game prospects are still unclear.

Both a Bective Rangers press officer and Mr Jackman said they could not comment.

All five former Grenoble players can appeal the decision to refer their cases to the criminal court. It is understood that at this stage any appeal would have to relate to a legal aspect and not to the facts of the case.

Mr Coulson was represented by Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt, a high-profile Paris-based lawyer who French GQ once listed as one of the 30 most powerful legal eagles in France.

Her clients included the controversial late businessman and politician Bernard Tapie.

Ms Dreyfus-Schmidt did not reply to a request for comment yesterday, but previously claimed that the applicant’s allegations were not sufficient to bring the case before the criminal court, as they had been contradicted by other witness testimonies.

The pace of investigations and court proceedings in France was very slow in international comparison.

Charges against Mr Coulson, Mr Grice and Mr Jammes were proposed back in 2019 but the case was not progressing at the time. Instead, it was considered further by the Bordeaux Court of Appeal, which issued its decision referring the case on Thursday.

Although Mr Farrell and Mr Hayes were among those questioned by police in 2017, French media reported that just last year they were being investigated by a coroner-designate for alleged “failure to complete a crime”.

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

French media have reported that the players facing rape allegations do not deny sexual activity. However, they insist the woman agreed, and video – filmed using a mobile phone during the alleged incident – has been produced to investigators to support this claim.

A 26-page indictment document, the contents of which were reported by Le Mondeargues differently.

It said the student feared she was “too drunk to react and say no.”

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

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

According to the document, a night watchman described the woman as drunk and asleep or drugged when she arrived at the hotel around 4am.

The sexual acts were immediately followed by the young woman’s mental collapse, who the document added suffered from tears, suffocation, tremors and disorientation.

She was shown the video and found it unbearable to watch, it said.

The document said there was “a lot of testimony” describing the young woman as “lost and shocked” the next morning.

It said that a hotel receptionist had to tell her where she was.

The woman is said to have told the taxi driver who took her home: “You raped me. There were several of them.”

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

It’s unclear how quickly the matter will now progress before the Assizes Court, as reports say at least one of the players, Loick Jammes, intends to appeal.

His attorney Denis Dreyfus had previously claimed there was “too much doubt” about the consent issue to pursue a trial. The full story: How two Irish rugby players faced a French court after a rape investigation

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