Irish rugby players appeal French decision to send them to trial

Court in France expected to take six months to rule on appeals lodged by Denis Coulson and Chris Farrell

The five rugby players charged with offences connected to an alleged case of gang rape in Bordeaux have all appealed to France’s highest court, the court of cassation, in the hope of annulling the September 22nd decision by an appeals court to send them to trial, a judicial source confirmed.

Three former players for the FC Grenoble club, including Irishman Denis Coulson, are charged with gang rape, which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Two players, including Irishman Chris Farrell, are charged with failing to prevent the alleged crime, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The court of cassation is expected to take about six months to rule on the appeals, which are lodged individually but considered collectively. The court can break (“casser”) the lower court’s decision to send the five to trial on procedural grounds only - for example, if a magistrate made the mistake of sending a notification by email instead of registered letter, or missed a deadline by one day.

If the court of cassation announces its decision in the spring, it is doubtful the trial could be organised before the July-August summer recess, so a trial would most likely be scheduled in Bordeaux in the autumn of 2023.


A French woman student, who was 21 years old at the time, filed a complaint against the rugby players on 12th March, 2017. After drinking with several of the rugby players in a pub and discotheque, she went with them to their hotel in the suburb of Mérignac, where she says she was gang-raped.