World Rugby replaces England-Ireland official to avoid conflict of interests

Marius van der Westhuizen has been replaced as an assistant referee for England's Six Nations meeting with Ireland after attending a training session with Eddie Jones' side this week.

England went through World Rugby to request an official's help in their approach to the breakdown, but the South African's presence prompted suggestions of a potential conflict of interests.

When asked if he thought the matter should be looked at, Jones insisted England had done nothing wrong.

"What are you, questioning his integrity?" he shot back at the reporter during Thursday's news conference. 

"There's no advantage, mate, we went through World Rugby, which is the proper channels so you're asking the wrong person.

"You should be asking World Rugby, we went through World Rugby and asked for a southern hemisphere referee to try and help us with our breakdown and that's what they offered."

Subsequently, World Rugby published a statement acknowledging its error in allowing Van der Westhuizen to help England, announcing that his place as an assistant for the Twickenham clash had been taken by Nigel Owens.

"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," the release read.

"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."

Ireland will be seeking to complete a Grand Slam on English soil on Saturday. 

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