The 10-week suspension that Joe Marler received should be complemented by Eddie Jones who seems to be happy to oversee this malfeasance and enmity
On November 2, 1996, I lined out in Donnybrook for Leinster against French Top 14 side Pau in the Heineken Cup.
Leinster won the match that day 25-23. My recollection is hazy, but I do remember it was a cracking game played at a searing pace.
I also remember that if somebody got their hands on the tape it would be video gold.
This Pau side had an ultra-dynamic maul and they were able to spin two or three players off the side to cause all sorts of trouble. Mauling has become a joke these days and maybe you have to look back to go forward.
There was one other thing of note during the game — a forceps delivery. Pau had an attacking lineout in our half but I managed to track the flight of the ball, get up and pick it off. If the match had been in France, I would have stood accused of breach of protocol.
I think the idea is that you win your own lineout ball in France or there could be reprisals.
As I came to ground, the line was pretty loose and the maul that was hastily convened was not the tightest I’ve ever been in.
As I tried to feed the ball to my blockers, a hand came up between my legs and grabbed me by the conkers. Maybe the hand was misplaced. Mais non!
The hand clamped and squeezed tighter as I impressed upon my teammates to take the ball so I could defend myself. My assailant tightened and then twisted his grip. My toes curled in and I screamed in a way that would have impressed Barry Gibb.
In the end you don't overthink these situations. I was there to play rugby — this guy wasn't. It simply was no longer about rugby and I dropped the ball on the floor and in the same movement managed to grab hold of his hand.
I had his index finger in my left hand and I twisted it sideways and broke it.
As the play went on, I had to take a knee and recover myself. My friend was hunched on the ground in pain.
As the medics made what they could of the situation I made my way over to my pal, with the referee assuming that I was only checking to see if my opponent was alright.
The guy looked up.
"That's for you, you French c**t."
One in the eye for all the instigators and provocateurs who populate our game and who I had to put up with all through my career.
That match was played 24 years ago. It was not the first time I had been bag snatched. Up to that point I had been spat at, gouged, split open, punched, knocked unconscious and had several bones broken on purpose.
Rugby is a violent game although the statute book and myriad camera lenses mean that you don’t get away with much these days.
There were players over the years who had no particular talent other than to antagonise or provoke. And hence the sneaky knee in the back at ruck time, the blindside punches or studs on the hands when they are on the ground.
Joe Marler's actions at Twickenham were so much more than blackguarding or a playful squeeze of the testicles from one player to another whom he knew well.
I have never really got Joe Marler. The Travis Bickle hairstyles and the jailhouse tatts are his least distinguishing features.
He is, of course, a good standard Test player and like everyone else, I would be sure to find out that he is a great fella if I went out for a few beers with him.
Whether we might share common ground on pinching Alun Wyn Jones’s testicles is not for debate — we just wouldn't.
I had a long conversation with someone who knows Marler very well to try and get some perspective. The conversation came hard and fast after Marler had clashed with Samson Lee at the same venue in the same fixture four years ago.
Lee had called Marler "a posh English c**t" and Marler had reciprocated by calling Lee "Gypsy Boy" which was, by all accounts, his nickname in the Welsh squad.
Marler is reasonably intelligent and articulate, irrespective of how inarticulate he is on the pitch. There was dysfunction in his upbringing and there is an edge to his personality — the ridiculous personal appearance may or may not be symptomatic of that.
Marler's rap sheet has been low grade and continuous. He is like most serial offenders, recidivist in nature. Is it a good thing that people like him never grow up?
Would it be a shame to polish the rough edges off his personality? Sanitise him even? He got sympathy when I looked at the book of evidence four years ago.
Now at aged 29 is there any sign of deliverance? It is a fallow field where his predecessors and path finders were people like Colin Smart, who drank a bottle of aftershave after an England v France game.
There is a feeling that Alun Wyn Jones made too much of it. The actual grab didn't matter a whit to Jones — it was the intent behind it that counted — the fact too that the two toured together and knew each other well compounds the act.
Nobody does that to people who they know.
There is the kernel of the matter. Basic human decency. If you know someone well or respect them, you would never ever attempt to goad them in this way, particularly not the captain of a national side whose exemplar personality and prestige is undoubted in this game.
It was a petty and puerile act and if there was any natural justice in the sporting world Marler should have got a bloody nose for his lack of respect and stupidity. Retribution should be a free shot.
The only thing I could single out in mitigation was that it seemed to be team policy to go after Jones.
Marler's rank action and stupidity wasn’t the only shot the Welsh captain took all day. Courtney Lawes — another recidivist offender — led with the shoulder with little chance of wrapping his arms around the Welsh lock. It was a fluke that Jones was tackled at the same time — if he had maintained his path, Lawes would have taken his head off. It was dumb luck that Lawes got away with it as the intent was there.
Minutes later Charlie Ewels, just on for Lawes who was hastily withdrawn, blindsided Jones in the back seconds after the ball was gone. It was so obvious it seemed that this was all pre-rehearsed.
We all know that Johnny Sexton gets targeted and gets special treatment and Eddie Jones worked it that if his players could goad and antagonise the Welsh talisman, well then it would take his mind off his game and England would get to him.
And so it seemed to me that there was free licence on Jones to do whatever possible to put him out of the game — legally or illegally.
I don't like the way Eddie Jones conducts himself. I don't like the way he prepares his players.
He sends them on to the field with poor grace and no sense of sporting conscience.
The 10-week suspension that Marler received should be complemented by his master who seems to be happy to oversee this malfeasance and enmity. Jones is just bad for the game.