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Men's Rugby Union Ireland sure referee Owens will protect stars against France

IRELAND trust referee Nigel Owens to protect their top stars against any late hits from France in Paris on Saturday, forwards coach Simon Easterby said yesterday.

Linchpin fly-half Johnny Sexton was targeted with a string of late tackles at the Stade de France two years ago when Ireland slipped up 10-9 in the 2016 Six Nations.

Ireland will open their Six Nations campaign in Paris this weekend, with Easterby adamant the officials will keep both sets of players in line.

Asked if Ireland had any fears of a repeat of the overtly physical treatment from two years ago, Easterby said: “No, we have to trust the guys in the middle and the fourth official, making sure we get the right adjudication.

“The game every year is becoming critical of those players who go outside the law. It’s not now possible to do certain things that you used to get away with when I was playing and that is for the betterment of the game.

“I am sure Nigel Owens and his team will have full control of that.

“We don’t have any concerns about what is going to happen out there and we trust the guys in the middle will be able to control things and see everything.

“We just want consistency. We have been aware through meetings and communication with the referees about certain things that they are going to be focusing on a little bit more.

“As long as we have consistency and it is the same for both sides, that’s all we can ask. That allows us to prepare the players and guide them in the working week so that on the weekend they see those things pan out.”

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