Mystery as petition backing Olding and Jackson temporarily taken offline
An online petition calling for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to get their jobs back at Ulster Rugby mysteriously disappeared from the internet for a few hours yesterday.
The petition, which was launched on Saturday, gathered more than 10,000 signatures by Monday night.
It disappeared from the website Change.org some time yesterday morning, but resurfaced later in the day. It is not clear why the petition - 'Get Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding back playing for Ulster Rugby - was temporarily removed.
Change.org was asked why, but the site has yet to respond.
Last night the petition had 13,109 signatories.
A separate petition in response - saying the two should not represent Ulster or Ireland again - had just 50 names attached last night.
But a third calling on the IRFU to publish the findings of a review into the players' conduct had 68,908 signatures.
In an appeal to get the players, who were unanimously acquitted of rape last month by a jury, back on the team, the organiser of the latest petition wrote: "Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape and therefore should be reinstated to the Ulster Rugby squad as soon as possible as they have already been forced through a very public trial and been suspended from playing throughout this trial."
The petition also said the men had not broken any rules of the sport, adding: "If Ulster Rugby need to enforce to these players how behaviour in their private lives may affect their career as rugby players then this should be stated clearly to the players as a warning not to repeat such behaviour again as it will carry consequences for themselves and others such as what they have gone through".
The statement also said the "same applies" in relation to winger Craig Gilroy, who is facing an internal club and IRFU review alongside his Ulster and Ireland team-mates for his part in a controversial series of WhatsApp messages that formed part of the evidence presented during the nine-week trial at Belfast High Court.
Meanwhile, a rally urging reform in the way rape cases are conducted is scheduled for Friday at the Kingspan Stadium as Ulster take on Ospreys in their first home game since the trial.
More than 170 people have committed online to attending, with another 650 expressing an interest.