Stuart Olding has spoken out for the first time since the Belfast rape trial.
Earlier this year, the Ulster rugby player and his teammate Paddy Jackson were at the centre of a highly-publicised rape trial – but in the end, both men were acquitted in June 2016.
Both players had their Ulster contracts revoked in April this year following an IRFU and Ulster review, but Stuart has since signed with French club Brive.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Stuart was reluctant to discuss the trial, but said, “It’s been a blessing to get back out onto the pitch and get back into a team. I am very very thankful to Brive for that.”
“They took me under their wing and I settled in very well and I just want to repay them for that.”
He continued, “I settled in very well, a lot quicker than I thought. Coming over, moving over to a new country and everything was exciting but quite daunting as well. Not knowing anyone in the team apart from knowing of Jeremy Davidson back home. He had just left Ulster as I came into the academy that year.”
“But I settled in within the first week here. And that’s down to the guys here. They are all very helpful to me, very kind to me, showed me the ropes, showed around town. Settled in excellently well.”
Brive coach Jeremy Davidson added, “Stuart has been really, really good. We have looked at him at ten, we have looked at him at 12. He has fitted in really well. He has made a real effort to speak French.”
“He is enjoying himself here, out of the limelight. Hopefully he will continue on and keep getting better week by week,” he said.
Speaking about learning French, the 25-year-old said, “I got a D in GCSE French. That’s the height of it. But the guys are very good. All of the French guys here speak English to me and I try to reply in French to them a lot of the time. They appreciate that as well.”
“Going out for coffees with the guys, I want to go out and learn the language. I don’t want to go out and sit by myself. I want to go out and enjoy myself. You pick up bits and bobs and guess what they are talking about. You pick up a couple of words and then you reply. It’s going well.”
Stuart also responded to comments made by David Nucifora, the IRFU performance director, who said he wouldn’t rule out Stuart and Paddy Jackson returning to Ireland in the future.
“It was one of the guys actually showed me it. I didn’t actually even hear about it. He showed me it. Who knows what will happen in the future? But I have signed here for two years and I plan on putting my full effort in here and who knows,” he said.