Marcus Smith among several England players on ‘modified training’ ahead of South Africa semi-final


England learned on Tuesday that their semi-final will be refereed by Ben O’Keeffe, whose officiating was criticised by France in the wake of their defeat to South Africa on Sunday.

It will be the second time O’Keeffe has overseen a Springboks match at this World Cup after the Kiwi official was in place for their 13-8 defeat by Ireland in the group stage.

South Africa have taken steps to repair their relationships with referees after director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was banned for two months for verbally attacking officials during the 2021 Lions series.

The reigning world champions are among the least penalised teams in the tournament and Sinfield said: “We have full respect for whoever takes charge.

“It’s a big game and I don’t think we’d ever criticise the referee during this campaign. We understand what a tough job it is.

England’s Marcus Smith has been placed on modified training (David Davies/PA)

“We are a pretty disciplined team at the minute and it’s something we talk about a lot. We certainly need to be disciplined in a whole host of ways on Saturday evening.”

Sinfield holds South Africa in high regard as the rematch of the 2019 World Cup final looms large, but insists England must also draw strength from their own attributes.

“They are a top team. We saw their quarter-final against France and were in awe of the physicality they brought,” Sinfield said.

“We have the utmost respect for them. We think they are a nation that play the best rugby. They know what they are about and they don’t shy away from it.

“We’re coming up against a team with probably the best defence in the world. They’ve been together a long time and they’re really well drilled. It’s an aggressive defence.

“They are a running threat, they’re a kick threat, they have an incredible set-piece, they have an unbelievable defence – do you want me to keep going?

“It’s important for us to get the balance right this week, understanding what South Africa do and how they play, but also some of our strengths as well.

“I think it would be quite easy for us to be completely blown away by how good they are.”

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