Wednesday 12 December 2018

Eyebrows raised as Saturday's assistant referee Van der Westhuizen joins England training

Referee Marius van der Westhuizen will not be involved at Twickenham after all
Referee Marius van der Westhuizen will not be involved at Twickenham after all
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

England coach Eddie Jones has enlisted some unusual help ahead of Saturday's pivotal Six Nations finale against Ireland in the form of match assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen.

In news that is sure to raise eyebrows in the Ireland camp, the South African took charge of England's training session at their Pennyhill Park base according to the London Times. It is reported that Ireland were unaware of his presence in Surrey.

It is not unusual for teams to enlist the help of international officials ahead of big Test matches. Irish referee John Lacey has been a regular attendee at Ireland’s sessions during this international window and held the whistle during Tuesday’s session at Carton House.

However, World Rugby's rules stipulate that a referee cannot assist a team he will referee during that international window or tournament, but there are no such regulations governing assistant referees.

Van der Westhuizen was part of the three man team who took charge of England's defeat against France last weekend, along with referee Jaco Peyper and Angus Gardner.

The trio will take charge of Saturday's clash with Australian Gardner swapping places with Peyper to taking charge at Twickenham having held a flag last weekend in Paris.

The stakes are high for both sides, with Ireland needing a win to secure a third Grand Slamin their history and England looking to get back to winning ways after two defeats on the road - their first back-to-back losses of Jones' era.

England’s discipline has been a major concern in the tournament to date, with Jones’ side conceding 15 penalties at the Stade de France.

The breakdown has been a particular area of concern for the faltering English side, who were penalised nine times at the ruck area.

According to the Times, World Rugby have no concerns about England gaining a competitive advantage from the presence of the assistant referee at their session.

The IRFU had no comment on the appearance of van der Westhuizen at England's training when contacted by World Rugby and Six Nations have been contacted for comment.

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