Rory Best has said that he felt like he was "used" by Paddy Jackson’s legal team during the 2018 Belfast rape trial.
The former Ireland captain was speaking to Off The Ball and expressed regret about his role in the trial, which saw former Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding acquitted of rape.
The former professional rugby player was called to the trial as a character witness for Jackson.
Looking back on the case, Best believes that Jackson's legal team used the former Ireland captain's profile to the benefit of their client.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I was unbelievably naive to think that wasn’t the way that it would be brought across. But I can assure you that it was never my intention.
“I look back now in hindsight and I didn’t think of it at the time. Ultimately, I’m a trusting person and I look back now and I do think that I was used.
“I didn’t ever think that it would be that case but there’s no doubt, as you said yourself, that it suited the [defence] to have me there.
“I think that I became a pawn and that is the bit that, looking back in hindsight, it was bad advice to be there,” Best said.
Rory Best on Belfast case
The Poyntzpass native felt that his appearance ultimately had a negative effect on the situation as it attracted more attention to the court case.
“I was, like I say, naive enough to think that I could go there as a friend. I accept exactly what you're saying and ultimately, you go to all these roles as a captain.
“I don’t know why I thought this would be different. But, look, ultimately I did. That is one of the things I’m very sorry for.
“It was never, never my intention to cause any more distress in what was a very, very difficult day for that poor girl anyway,” Best commented.
The former Ireland international now believes that it was a mistake to attend the trial and that it has caused him to reflect a great deal.
“I know now in hindsight that was wrong. I shouldn’t have been there.
“I didn’t [take independent legal advice] and that was more mistakes because I think when you’re a reasonably trusting person you kind of think that, ‘Oh look, if they’re saying this then it must be for my benefit.’ It turned out it wasn’t.
“My benefit or detriment was irrelevant to it but it turned it into a circus and it put a lot more pressure onto something that was very sensitive.
“Like I’ve said before, that is definitely the thing that I regret the most and to turn up the magnifying glass on it is just something that… I suppose you say you live and learn but this was a big thing you had to live and learn from,” Best said.