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Irish rugby star Chris Farrell steps away from Munster after case linked to alleged rape is referred to French criminal court

An Irish international has stepped away from his involvement with Munster Rugby after cases against him and four other players were referred to a French criminal court following allegations a young woman was raped.

n a statement, Munster confirmed centre Chris Farrell will not be involved with the team while the French legal process is ongoing.

Mr Farrell (29) is not accused of rape but is facing an accusation of “not stopping a crime”.

The Bordeaux Court of Appeal confirmed today that three former FC Grenoble rugby players accused of rape in Merignac in 2017 have been referred to the Assises Court of Gironde, multiple French media outlets have reported.

The three are Irishman Denis Coulson (28), New Zealander Rory Grice (32), and Frenchman Loick Jammes (27). Mr Coulson has played professional rugby for three French sides and Connacht during his career. More recently he has been playing club rugby in Ireland.

It was also reported the same court confirmed “the presence of sufficient evidence” to refer two other former Grenoble players to the Assises Court for the alleged offence of “not stopping a crime”. They are Mr Farrell and New Zealander Dylan Hayes (28).

In a statement to Independent.ie, Munster Rugby said Mr Farrell will be taking time away from the team.

“Munster Rugby and Chris Farrell have agreed that, with immediate effect, he will be stepping back from his involvement with the Munster squad whilst legal proceedings in France, concerning his alleged involvement as a witness to an alleged crime in 2017, are on-going.

“As this is an active legal matter before the French courts, we have no further comment,” the statement said. 

The Assises Court tries serious criminal cases.

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Irish prop Denis Coulson (R) arrives on March 21, 2017 at the police station in Grenoble, French Alps. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT

All five can still appeal the decision to another appeal court known as the Court of Cassation, which deals with the interpretation of law rather than the facts of a case.

French media reported that the players have denied the complainant’s accusations and insist that any contact with her was consensual.

The case relates to an alleged incident in March 2017 when several Grenoble players, who were coming from a Top 14 match they lost against Union Bordeaux Bègles, decided to continue the evening in a pub in the city.

There, they are alleged to have met a student aged 21, who was brought back to their hotel.

Le Dauphiné Libéré newspaper reported that an examining magistrate in charge of the case made a ruling in June 2019 bringing charges before the Assises Court against Mr Coulson, Mr Jammes and Mr Grice. But this ruling was appealed by the three men.

A lawyer for Mr Coulson said in 2019 the complainant’s accusations were not sufficient for the case to go before the criminal court as they had been contradicted by witness testimony.

A lawyer for Mr Jammes also said that year that there was too much doubt regarding the issue of consent for there to be a trial.

Le Dauphiné Libéré said Mr Farrell and Mr Hayes were subsequently put under investigation by a designated examining magistrate last year for allegedly “not stopping a crime”.

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