IRISH rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are among four men charged in relation to an alleged rape.
The Public Prosecution Service has confirmed that a decision has been taken to prosecute four men for offences relating to an allegation of rape on June 28, 2016 in south Belfast.
All four men were informed of the decision on Monday July 22, 2017 and are due to appear in Laganside Court in Belfast next month.
A PPS spokesperson said: “Following a careful review of all of the available evidence, in accordance with our Code for Prosecutors, it has been decided that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute four individuals as follows:
“One man is being prosecuted on a charge of rape contrary to Article 5 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 and a charge of sexual assault contrary to Article 6 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
“A second man is being prosecuted on two charges of rape, contrary to Article 5 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
“A third man is being prosecuted for an offence contrary to Article 70 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
“A fourth man is being prosecuted for doing an act with intent to pervert the course of public justice contrary to Common Law and with withholding information contrary to Section 5 (1) of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967.”
In a joint statement, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said the players have cooperated fully and 'strenuously deny' the charges.
"The IRFU and Ulster Rugby take these allegations extremely seriously.
"To allow the players time to address this matter fully Ulster Rugby and the IRFU have agreed that they be relieved of their duties and obligations until the conclusion of this process.
"Appropriate support structures will be put in place with them during this time," the official rugby bodies said.
Speaking for their client Paddy Jackson, KRW Law said they were "disappointed" by the decision to prosecute.
"We are very disappointed at the decision of the PPS to prosecute given the particular circumstances and facts known in this case.
"Our client rejects completely the allegations made against him and we are confident he will be exonerated in due course.
"Given that the case will be a jury trial it is absolutely critical that nothing is done or said in the media to prejudice due process and to that end we urge restraint on any sensationalist reporting.
"We will push for as early a hearing as possible as Patrick Jackson wants to resume playing his rugby union for Ulster Rugby and representing his country for the IRFU."
Similarly, representing co-accused Stuart Olding, Joe Rice said: "I would like to point out that my client has fully co-operated with the investigation and is not on any bail conditions and is of previous good character.
"He should be allowed to uphold his right to the presumption of innocence and rejects any allegation of wrong-doing and is confident his name will be cleared through the courts."