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Rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to mount early challenge, court hears

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Irish internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding deny the charges

Irish internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding deny the charges

Paddy Jackson is due to appear in court to face charges related to a sexual assault

Paddy Jackson is due to appear in court to face charges related to a sexual assault

Stuart Olding is due to appear in court on Wednesday to face charges related to a sexual assault

Stuart Olding is due to appear in court on Wednesday to face charges related to a sexual assault

Irish internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding deny the charges

Two Irish rugby stars facing rape charges are set to mount an early challenge to the evidence against them, a court heard on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Paddy Jackson, 25, and Stuart Olding, 24, confirmed they want a hearing to test the strength of the prosecution case.

Both players strenuously deny any offences allegedly committed against the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June last year.

It had been anticipated that they would appear before Belfast Magistrates' Court along with two other men charged in connection with the same case.

But none of the defendants were in attendance as proceedings got underway.

Jackson, of Oakleigh Park in the city, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault.

Olding, of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with two counts of rape.

His solicitor, Joe Rice, told District Judge Fiona Bagnall that he will be pleading not guilty to both charges.

Referring to one of the rape allegations, Mr Rice said: "We do not accept there's a sufficiency of evidence to return to the Crown Court."

He pledged to make a "robust application" to have that count against Olding dismissed at a preliminary stage.

"We are ready to proceed at the earliest opportunity," Mr Rice stressed.

Jackson's lawyer, Joe McVeigh, set out a similar denial to the allegations against him.

He also disclosed plans to call a civilian witness to give evidence as part of his challenge to the prosecution case.

Fly half Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times while centre Olding has played four times.

But the stars, also team mates for Ulster Rugby, are not being considered for selection while court proceedings continue.

Also facing charges as part of the same investigation are 25-year-olds Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison.

McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is charged with one count of exposure, while Harrison, of Manse Road in the city, is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

According to the charges Harrison made a witness statement to police, lying about his dealings with the alleged rape victim and omitted information relevant to the investigation.

His solicitor, Tony Caher, insisted he wants the prosecution to provide more details on the alleged offence.

"We don't know what lies and omissions they are referring to," the lawyer said.

Recordings of the alleged victim's police interviews and photographs from the scene are being sought as well, the court heard.

Following submissions Judge Bagnall adjourned the case until September 6, when she is expected to fix a date for the preliminary enquiry hearing.

Belfast Telegraph