Van der Westhuizen stood down as assistant referee for Grand Slam clash after attending England training session

Van der Westhuizen stood down as assistant referee for Grand Slam clash after attending England training session
Nigel Owens.

Marius Van der Westhuizen has been stood down from assistant refereeing duties for Ireland's Grand Slam clash on Saturday after attending an England training session.

Global governing body World Rugby has replaced Van der Westhuizen with Wales' Nigel Owens - and accepted full responsibility for what it branded an "oversight".

South African official Van der Westhuizen refereed England's training session at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday, just five days before he was due to run the line when Ireland face Eddie Jones' side at Twickenham.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt had earlier on Thursday insisted he had faith in Van der Westhuizen's "integrity", but now any possible conflict of interest has been removed.

"World Rugby has confirmed that Marius van der Westhuizen will be replaced by Nigel Owens as Assistant Referee 2 for the Natwest 6 nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday," read a World Rugby statement.

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 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."

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