'One mistake does not make me a racist' - Joe Marler apologises for gypsy boy comment
Joe Marler has apologised for calling Wales prop Samson Lee a "gypsy boy", and insisted he is not a racist ahead of a World Rugby misconduct hearing on Tuesday.
Harlequins front-rower Marler escaped with a reprimand after insulting Scarlets prop Lee in England's 25-21 RBS 6 Nations win over Wales last month, but could face a retrospective ban from World Rugby.
Marler took to Twitter on the eve of the hearing to apologise, adding that he would accept the ruling from the governing body.
He wrote: "I'm not a racist. What I said to Samson was out of order and wrong and I am sorry it was said, we shook hands at the end of the game and looked to move on. Whatever happens to me tomorrow I will accept.
"I'm sorry to anyone who was offended, saying it was in the 'heat of the moment' isn't an excuse, but one comment, one mistake, does not make me a racist. My wife, kids, family and friends (yes, I do have some friends) know this.
"Thanks to the people who have supported me and have understood that I made a mistake and sorry again to the people I offended."
Marler avoided a potential four-week suspension after Six Nations chiefs judged his remorse, apology at half-time during the Wales match and subsequent admonishing by England as sufficient punishment.
World Rugby's move to launch independent action outlined a level of dissatisfaction with that move, leaving the Six Nations disciplinary process under almost as much scrutiny as Marler himself.
''World Rugby can confirm that the Joe Marler misconduct hearing is scheduled to take place on April 5 in London,'' read a statement from the governing body issued on March 28.
''The case will be heard by an independent judicial committee, assembled by the independent judicial chairman in accordance with World Rugby regulation 18.
''The committee will comprise Terry Willis (chair, Australia), Jean-Noel Couraud (France) and Alan Hudson (Canada).''
The RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie had attempted to move past the Marler storm, insisting the Six Nations' decision to clear the 25-year-old should be ''the end of the matter''.
The Harlequins star came off the bench in the 31-21 victory over France in Paris that secured England's first Grand Slam since 2003, and has also returned to club action.
Quins boss Conor O'Shea has offered a staunch defence of Marler, insisting his player is in no way racist, and also claiming Lee hurled abuse at Marler in their heated exchange during the Wales match.