World rugby's governing body has defended South African referee Jonathan Kaplan's handling of England's Six Nations defeat by Wales last weekend and slammed accusations of bias from the English camp.
In a statement, the International Rugby Board described comments made by England attack coach Brian Smith as "unwarranted" and categorically dismissed his claim that Kaplan's performance at the Millennium Stadium had been influenced by the Wales management.
The statement says the official performance review of the Wales versus England match at the Millennium Stadium ranks Kaplan's overall performance as high and the IRB is satisfied that Kaplan followed the correct protocol for addressing both teams on and off the field and dealt with England and Wales in a fair and professional manner and refereed what was in front of him.
Smith said Kaplan's whole demeanour through the match, the way he addressed their team in the changing room beforehand - he had clearly had heaps of pressure put on by Wales.
Wales beat England 23-15 and there has been speculation that Smith's comments, rather than being an attack on Kaplan, were designed to put pressure on another South African official, Craig Joubert, who will take charge of the Ireland v England match in Dublin this weekend.
England's management and players feel they are being stereotyped by officials as a side lacking discipline and believe that contributed to Kaplan sin-binning Mike Tindall and Andy Goode during the Wales match.