Joe Schmidt hopes that Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will find forgiveness in the future
Joe Schmidt says it's impossible to predict if Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will play rugby in Ireland again, but hopes the pair will be forgiven at some stage in the future following their acquittal in the Belfast rape trial.
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Both Jackson and Olding were unanimously acquitted by a jury in March 2018 of raping a student in Jackson's south Belfast home in June 2016.
During the trial, a series of WhatsApp messages were revealed and both players had their IRFU contracts terminated. Jackson is currently playing with London Irish while Olding is in France with Brive.
In an in-depth interview on this website with Brendan Fanning last week, Schmidt said he did not write about the trial in his recently-published book 'Ordinary Joe' because "these guys (Penguin) thought it wasn't a good idea to go there".
When asked about the fallout from the case on BBC Radio, Schmidt said: "Being found not guilty doesn't necessarily in some people's eyes excuse behaviour. That's a difficult thing to overcome.
"You would hope that people…we have a system where people are punished for crime and not doing a crime and you hope that at some stage, forgiveness would be part of that."
In his book Schmidt writes that Rory Best considered retiring following the criticism he received for attending the trial on a rest day during an international week.
Schmidt says he gave Best all the support he needed to prepare for the pending Six Nations, which Ireland went on to win.
"(I was worried) Because of the hashtag 'not my captain'. The way he was isolated," said Schmidt.
"What I tried to do was to not allow him [Best] be completely isolated - certainly not in the lead up to the [first Six Nations] game [against France]. I could see how tough it was for him."