One of the assistant referees for the England vs Ireland match on Saturday got involved during an England training session.

South African Assistant Referee Stood Down After Appearing At England Training

World Rugby have decided to replace assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen with Nigel Owens for England versus Ireland in the last round of the Six Nations. They made their choice after it became public that the official was involved in a training session with the England team a couple of days ago.

In their statement, World Rugby said: “The decision follows Marius’s attendance at an England training session this week. While greater dialogue and collaboration between match officials and teams (including attending team training on request) has been agreed by World Rugby and the teams, Marius should not have been involved given that he was a member of the match official team for the weekend’s match.

“World Rugby takes responsibility for this oversight and has taken the proactive decision to stand Marius down to avoid any additional unfair and unnecessary conjecture. Marius is an outstanding talent with a big international future and both he and his employer SARU fully support the decision.”

It is fairly regular for teams to ask referees to come in and advise on training with them, however, to many, this instance appeared to be a conflict of interest.

South African Assistant Referee Stood Down After Attending England Training

Turbulent week: Eddie Jones has had a stressful build-up to England v Ireland

Before they took this step, World Rugby had already made it clear that they would talk to England’s training staff to make sure this kind of occurrence doesn’t happen again.

The current rules in place stipulate that match day referees cannot train with international teams they will directly be involved with. However, it has taken this incident for World Rugby to stipulate that assistants – who could easily replace an injured ref – should be held to the same standard. They have stated: “senior elite teams will continue to have the opportunity to request that a member of the high-performance match official panel attends training providing that the individual is not a member of the match official team officiating that team at a later date within the current competition or test window”.

This story was first reported by Alex Lowe of the Times.

At the time of writing Ireland and Joe Schmidt have failed to comment on the matter.

Related: Six Nations Round Four: Six Things We Learnt 

This incident is the latest controversy to circle around Eddie Jones and England.

Another was a video of Jones making comments about Ireland and Wales which has divided opinion.

Related: Eddie Jones Video Dividing Opinion

That incident, along with the referee debacle above, will inevitably add to the atmosphere on Saturday as Ireland, already 2018 Six Nations champions, look to record a Grand Slam.

Clearly, Jones’s incendiary comments are sure to fire the team up at Twickenham, and considering England’s struggles last couple of rounds, it could turn into a colossal contest.

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