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We want to draw a line in the sand: Ulster CEO rules out return for Jackson and Olding

Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson.
Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson.
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

New Ulster Rugby chief executive Jonny Petrie has effectively closed the door on a return to the club by exiled Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

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The former Ulster pair were unanimously acquitted of raping the same woman at a house party in the summer of 2016 but both still had their contracts revoked following an internal review by Ulster and the IRFU.

Olding is currently playing for French side Brive, who are in contention for promotion to the Top 14 this season. Jackson's Perpignan, however, are enduring a tough season and are adrift at the foot of the top tier of French rugby.

Since the pair left their home province, IRFU and Ulster officials have adopted a never say never approach to a future return but it does not appear to be on the new CEO's agenda as he said yesterday he had been brought in to move the organisation forward, not to re-open old wounds.

While Jackson has been linked with a move from Perpignan to London Irish, his supporters have been harbouring hopes of an Ulster return.

But Scot Petrie said: "This issue, looking at it from the outside, for such a long time over the course of the past couple of years at the club, it has been something that has been hugely divisive on a number of fronts.

"I've been brought here to move this place forward, and to do that I don't see that we should be re-opening old wounds that have caused such division within the sport and across society. We want to draw a line in the sand and make this place about the rugby. We need to move this club forward.

"If people want to draw their own conclusions from that, it's up to them, but I don't see it's in anyone's best interests to revisit that.

"We're in a position where we're moving forward and getting on with making this place about the rugby."

While previous CEO Shane Logan outlined a vision for making Ulster the "best side in the world", a line used as a stick to beat him with once matters unravelled on and off the pitch, Petrie shied away from such claims in his first media engagement.

"There's no point making bold proclamations or saying, 'We're going to win this or that'. Everyone knows what rugby in Ulster can be when we make it a success. The cliche is you have to focus on the process and not the outcome."

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