Search icon


03rd Feb 2018

Rugby fans threaten to boycott Six Nations opener as criticism of Rory Best mounts

People have been using the hashtag #notmycaptain.

Gillian Fitzpatrick

The decision of Irish rugby captain Rory Best to attend a rape trial this week in Belfast has ignited significant criticism among fans.

Indeed, some are stating that in protest they are boycotting Saturday’s Six Nations opener against France. Others have been using the hashtag #notmycaptain as well as #shouldertoshoulder in solidarity with the woman who alleges she was raped.

So far, the IRFU, head coach Joe Schmidt, and Mr Best have not commented on the matter.

The 35-year-old player attended court proceedings alongside Ireland international Iain Henderson and Ulster’s Craig Gilroy – however, in his role as captain, Mr Best has found himself in the firing-line on social media.

Among his critics is Irish senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who shared on Twitter his sentiments. “I’m absolutely aghast that the captain of the national rugby side thought it appropriate to attend this trial.

“IRFU have to respond, as this is an utter disgrace.”

On Thursday, The Irish Times ran with a photo of Rory and Iain walking into the court buildings.

Well-known 2FM host Louise McSharry furthermore revealed that she would not be watching the France game. “To say I have a sour taste in my mouth is an understatement,” she added.

Respected Irish sports journalist Joe Callaghan – who now holds a senior editorial position with Metro News Canada – said he shared news of Mr Best’s decision with his newsroom colleagues. In their response, he described that “jaws were on the floor”. He continued by saying that the situation “bordered on sinister”.

At a pre-match press conference on Friday, Mr Best stated he did not wish to comment on the matter.

The Irish Times reports that when asked why he attended the trial he said: “No I have no comment.” And when asked whether he had been given permission from the IRFU, he repeated: “No comment.”

On Thursday, Joe Schmidt was asked by the Irish Independent‘s David Kelly if he was aware Mr Best and Mr Henderson had been in the courtroom. In response the coach stated: “We are in no position to comment on that. It is a legal matter.”

Irish player Paddy Jackson, 26, of Oakleigh Park, Belfast is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. Stuart Olding, 24 and also an Irish international, of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with one count of rape.

Meanwhile, Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

They all deny the charges.