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Schmidt 'surprised' to see Van der Westhuizen in England camp, but stands by assistant ref's integrity

The South African will run the line at Twickenham on Saturday despite aiding England’s preparations this week.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt says he still has faith in Marius van der Westhuizen, despite his ‘surprising’ appearance at England training this week.

The South African referee was present at England’s training at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday and will be an assistant referee to Australian Angus Gardiner for Saturday’s Test at Twickenham.

Teams often train with recognised officials, but World Rugby makes it clears that referees cannot work with teams they will be officiating in the same the Test window. As an assistant referee, Van der Westhuizen appears to have slipped through a loophole.

“Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise,” Schmidt said after naming his starting line-up at Carton House.

“I’m sure in retrospect people are probably thinking it may not have been the best thing to do.

“I know Marius, and I’d have no hesitation in standing by his integrity. I don’t think it will affect his decision-making. So we’d still have faith in him as an official on Saturday.”

Eddie Jones watches the end of the Ireland vs France game Eddie Jones watching Ireland before his side lost to France last weekend. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

A day after Eddie Jones apologised for referring to Schmidt’s team as ‘the scummy Irish,’  the Kiwi was asked his opinion on Jones’ comments made at a function last year.

Schmidt opted to use the power of the bubble to brush past the issue.

“I know there is a little bit of noise about them. They are not directly relevant to us, to be honest. I don’t know what the specifics of them; those words don’t impact on how we play or how his team play and that’s our focus.”

“The bubble that does surround us out here, it does mean that we can focus on the task in hand and not what someone is saying about is.”

From a player’s perspective, Peter O’Mahony preferred to fuel his motivation with more than the revelation that England’s head coach is not enamoured with Ireland’s team:

“You are on the wrong page if you are looking for motivation from that stuff,” said the Corkman.

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Sean Farrell

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