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World Rugby Drop Controversial Assistant Ref From England/Ireland

World Rugby Drop Controversial Assistant Ref From England/Ireland
By Gavin Cooney
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World Rugby have announced the removal of Marius van der Westhuizen from the team of officials for this weekend's Six Nations game between England and Ireland. Van der Westhuizen was due to be a touch judge at Twickenham this weekend, but courted controversy by refereeing during an England training session four days prior to this weekend's Test. He has been replaced by Nigel Owens.


World Rugby have accepted the responsibility for his involvement with England training, and have removed him from this weekend's game so as to spare him "unfair and unnecessary conjecture".

Here's the World Rugby statement in full.

The decision follows Marius’ 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.

World Rugby has also clarified with teams that, in addition to the regular pre-match coach and referee meetings, 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.

Earlier today, England defence coach Paul Gustard defended van der Westhuizen's involvement in England training.


So they [Ireland] will be questioning his integrity? You could see it the other way, couldn't you? What if it goes against us? He's an international referee. He is one of the best referees. You're asking someone to come in here and assist in training, give his viewpoint on things.

It's no different to if someone from Ireland rang up to give his viewpoint on things. They have the same access. I see no issue with it at all.

This had been long in the pipeline. It is all part of understanding different referees, how they referee things.

We have a relationship with the English referees that assist us. The opportunity to get other foreign referees in to give their viewpoint in how they see things is important for our growth as a squad.

See Also: Mike Ross Dismisses "Scummy Irish" Barb As The "Internet Outrage Of The Week"

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