Joe Marler: England prop avoids sanction for 'Gypsy boy' comment

Joe Marler
Marler is now free to play in England's final game against France on Saturday
Six Nations: France v England
Date: Saturday, 19 March Venue: Stade de France,Paris Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

England prop Joe Marler will receive no punishment for his "Gypsy boy" comment to Wales prop Samson Lee, Six Nations organisers say.

Marler, who earlier avoided a sanction for striking an opponent, can play in England's final game against France.

The 25-year-old apologised after making the comment during England's 25-21 Six Nations win over Wales on Saturday.

Lee, from the Traveller community, said he accepted the comment as "banter".

Six Nations Rugby said in a statement it was "aware of the seriousness of Mr Marler's comment and does not in anyway condone what was said" but accepted it was said "in the heat of the moment".

It added that Marler "deeply regretted what he had said", had "immediately and unprompted apologised to Mr Lee" and noted that England head coach Eddie Jones "had reprimanded Mr Marler and reminded him of his responsibilities as an international rugby player".

"Having taken all the facts into account, no further disciplinary action will be taken," it said. "Six Nations Rugby consider that this matter is now closed."

Marler, who plays his club rugby for Harlequins, said he shook hands with Lee at the end of the game and the pair "exchanged smiles" despite his "misguided" comment.

"I do not condone racism in any form, at any time, deeply regret the incident and intend to reflect the behaviours expected of an England player going forward," he added.

"Once again, I apologise for the upset my inappropriate remark has caused."

Six Nations schedule
Date (All times GMT)FixtureCoverage
Sat, 19 Mar (14:30 KO)Wales v ItalyBBC One, S4C and BBC Radio
Sat, 19 Mar (17:00 KO)Ireland v ScotlandITV and BBC Radio
Sat, 19 Mar, (20:00 KO)France v EnglandBBC One and BBC Radio

Verbal abuse of a player based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or otherwise can carry a minimum sanction of a four-week suspension.

Campaigners from the Traveller community - and figures inside the sport - had been critical of Marler for making the comment and called for a ban.

There was also criticism aimed at Jones and Wales coach Warren Gatland for their responses to the incident.

Gatland subsequently apologised for describing it as "banter".

Marler's comments were picked up by a microphone and England flanker James Haskell says players now need to realise what they say will be broadcast.

"I had something in 2011, when I got eye-gouged," he recalled. "I vocalised my distaste for the gouging and it was broadcast to 20 million people on ITV. So I've been on the receiving end of it.

"We've all got to understand that the world is changing at a rate of knots, have some empathy and hold ourselves in check."

Meanwhile, Marler has also avoided any sanction for striking an opponent during the win over Wales at Twickenham.

A Six Nations disciplinary committee found he struck prop Rob Evans in the 15th minute of the match.

But it said in a statement: "The disciplinary committee found that the offending would not have warranted a red card and so imposed no sanction."

England have already won the Six Nations with a game to spare and can win a first Grand Slam since 2003 with victory in France on Saturday (20:00 GMT).

Six Nations table
With two points available for a win, England can not now be caught at the top of the table

Analysis

BBC rugby pundit Jonathan Davies

"It should have been dealt with very, very quickly. This has been hanging over since the weekend and should have been done, dealt with straight away.

"I feel Joe Marler has been very, very lucky in being cleared for the elbow and also the comment to Samson Lee.

"Everybody now has a responsibility to the game and to themselves not to say those comments. He's a very, very lucky man and I hope he's learnt from it."

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