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Official axed over England training role

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

World Rugby have responded to the controversy surrounding assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen's involvement at England's training session on Tuesday by removing him from the panel of officials for tomorrow's Grand Slam decider and replacing him with Nigel Owens.

Although the arrangement was organised through World Rugby, and no rules were broken by England or the South African, the governing body have conceded that the incident should not have taken place and will update their guidelines to prevent a similar circumstance arising again.

Ireland did not lodge an objection to Van der Westhuizen's presence at Pennyhill Park, but Joe Schmidt described it as "a bit of a surprise", adding: "in retrospect people may think it wasn't the best thing to do."

Schmidt said he had no qualms about Van der Westhuizen's involvement but within hours of his press conference the South African was replaced.

A World Rugby statement read: "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 take responsibility for this oversight and have 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 support the decision."

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