Saturday 16 December 2017

Joe Marler 'also abused' in gypsy-boy row as 'get in caravan' jibe sparks further outrage

England's prop Joe Marler (C) clashes with Wales' prop Samson Lee (3rd R) during the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and Wales at Twickenham yesterday
England's prop Joe Marler (C) clashes with Wales' prop Samson Lee (3rd R) during the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and Wales at Twickenham yesterday

Paul Bolton

Joe Marler’s ‘gypsy-gate’ affair took another twist on Sunday night when Conor O’Shea, the Harlequins director of rugby, claimed his loosehead prop had also been subject to verbal abuse during England’s Six Nations clash against Wales two weeks ago.

World Rugby is expected to announce on Monday a date for Marler’s hearing after microphones picked up him calling the Wales prop Samson Lee “gypsy boy”.

Further video footage released over the weekend suggested that Marler had also said “get back to your caravan” to Lee with lip-reading evidence likely to be used in the World Rugby hearing. But O’Shea claimed that Marler had been subject to a four-letter insult during the Twickenham match and insisted that Harlequins would continue to support their player.

“I know Joe and whatever has gone on, Joe is not in any way, shape or form racist. Things are said in the heat of the moment that shouldn’t be,” he said. “He owned up and apologised at the time, both accepted it. It would be fair to say that there were a couple of things said to him with words that you can’t use but such is life.

“Posh, English and a four-letter word seems to be fine one way but not the other. I just think both wanted to draw a line under it. The process has just dragged. It’s unfair on him. Do we condone it? No, nobody does, he knew he had done wrong, he apologised but to let it drag the way it has for him is not particularly fair, especially when you know some of the stuff that was said to him. We will support him through it.”

O’Shea confirmed that Marler would admit any charges brought against him with World Rugby already saying his actions amounted to a breach of its code of conduct.

“He’s going in to World Rugby to say I am sorry and I will take whatever comes my way,” he said.

Any suspension imposed on Marler by World Rugby would be an embarrassment to Six Nations organisers and the Rugby Football Union, who both took no action against him. The RFU makes much of five Core Values which are supposed to define the game with the second of them, Respect, stating: “We respect opposition players and supporters.”

On the pitch, Marler played his first game for Harlequins since the start of the Six Nations on Sunday but was unable to save them from defeat in a frenetic contest. Marler played the full 80 minutes but Harlequins slipped to their seventh defeat in nine matches and had to settle for a losing bonus point secured by Ben Botica’s late penalty.

Botica also missed two penalties in the last 12 minutes, the first of which struck the crossbar, which might have given Harlequins the share of the spoils. Instead Northampton leapfrogged Leicester into fourth place with a solid team effort which produced a first try for the club in 3½ years from Courtney Lawes and others for Alex Waller, Ben Foden and Harry Mallinder.

The lock was dropped by England early in their Grand Slam-winning campaign and the presence of England head coach Eddie Jones in the stands was a significant motivation for him.

“I think Courtney knew Eddie Jones was coming. He was disappointed that he got dropped from England. I don’t think he’s ever been dropped before in his life so he is out to prove a point,” said the Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder. “Hopefully he can do that for us over these next few games and then we will see how does for the Australia tour.”

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