Six Nations 2016: Warren Gatland sorry for 'banter' comment

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland has been Wales' head coach since 2007

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has apologised for referring to an abusive comment aimed at prop Samson Lee by England's Joe Marler as "just banter".

Marler apologised to Lee for calling him a "Gypsy boy" during Saturday's Six Nations match at Twickenham.

Gatland made his comment on Tuesday, but, in a statement on Wednesday, said: "I don't condone racism of any kind."

Lee added: "I personally believe the comments to have been intended as banter and accepted Joe's apology."

After Gatland referred to Saturday's incident as "banter", ex-Wales captain Gareth Thomas tweeted: "I'm sorry, but I cannot agree with this as banter. Poor excuse."

Romany Gypsy advocate and activist Shay Clipson earlier told BBC Radio Wales Gatland should be "held accountable" for his comment.

Cardiff North Welsh Assembly member and former MP Julie Morgan said on Twitter:external-link "Gatland dismissing 'gypsy boy' taunt as 'banter' has sent rugby backwards."

Gatland has 'no issue' with Marler 'banter'

Gatland's statement continued: "I apologise for any offence my use of the word banter may have caused.

"My intention was to take the focus away from Samson, a private individual, and enable him and the rest of squad to prepare for the final game of the championship.

"My comments were made following a discussion with Samson about the incident."

A Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) statement added: "The WRU does not condone racism of any kind. The incident is being investigated by the Six Nations and we would welcome a definitive and speedy conclusion to their investigation.

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"The WRU recognises that Warren's overriding intention was to protect Samson by playing down the incident and that his comments were made following a thorough consultation with Samson and with his support."

In the same statement,external-link Lee, who is from a Traveller background, added: "I stand beside Warren.

"Warren is fiercely protective of the team and his comments were made based on conversations with me and with the intention of deflecting attention away from me."

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