Six Nations

Eyebrows raised after SA ref joins England training

Marius van der Westhuizen (Gallo Images)
Marius van der Westhuizen (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - England have denied a conflict of interest after one of the officials appointed for their Six Nations clash against Ireland on Saturday refereed one of their training sessions this week.

Marius van der Westhuizen will be an assistant referee for Saturday’s Test at Twickenham and according to the Stuff website, the South African was also utilised by England during one of their training sessions this week.

Australia’s Angus Gardner will be the referee on Saturday, with another South African, Jaco Peyper, the other assistant referee.

World Rugby's regulations allow referees to help players and coaches with their understanding of the laws of the games and its interpretations, but it's forbidden for an official to help any team if they're to referee them during any given tournament.

However, the same ruling does not apply for assistant referees which means England broke no rules.

The issue was nevertheless brought up at a press conference when England’s assistant coach Paul Gustard was probed on the matter.

"Why would it be? Gustard responded when asked if he thought Ireland would have any issues.

"So they (Ireland) will be questioning his integrity? You could see it the other way, couldn't you? What if it goes against us.

Gustard continued: "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."

Ireland have already secured the Six Nations title, but a win at Twickenham would also see them win the Grand Slam.

Kick-off on Saturday is at 16:45 SA time.

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