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Leinster play down concerns over Pearson selection

Leinster have brushed off concerns over the appointment of referee Dave Pearson for this Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulouse -- despite a series of blunders during Ireland's Six Nations defeat to France.

Pearson's performance in that narrow defeat so riled the Irish management that a review of the English official's display was sought, which revealed that he had erred on three separate occasions, as later confirmed by Irish coach Declan Kidney.

"There were penalties given against us in the last game that have since been acknowledged that at least one of those should have been turned around, and on two more occasions there should have been a penalty awarded to us just before there were penalties awarded against us," said Kidney last February. During a fraught 25-22 defeat that many observers believed was influenced by the refereeing decisions, Pearson also warned Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll that his side were on the verge of receiving a yellow card.

However, Leinster back-row Shane Jennings yesterday distanced himself from that controversy and claimed that he did not know who was refereeing on Saturday.

"You guys pick up on a lot of stuff that I don't pick up on to be perfectly honest," he said. "I wouldn't have noticed too many things. We all know different referees have different interpretations, we understand that.

"Pearson is going to have his way of reffing. He'll fill us in on the way he wants it. We'll do some research on him and prepare for him. We can't hold that as an excuse. It's a thing that we can't control -- what he says goes, he's the ref."

Forwards coach Jono Gibbes also disengaged himself from the debate. "There are only a certain amount of referees that can ref games, and we drew him," he said. "I think he's a good operator and maybe internationally that's something for Declan to discuss with the appropriate powers. But for us in the Heineken that's the guy we got."

Pearson has been selected as one of the 10 elite referees who will officiate at this year's World Cup.

Elsewhere, out-half Felipe Contepomi -- currently playing at Toulon -- is set to link up with former Leinster coach Michael Cheika at Stade Francais next season.

Irish Independent