Rugby Union

England prop Joe Marler banned for two games and fined for "gypsy boy" slur

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England and Harlequins prop Joe Marler has been banned for two games after his "gypsy boy" slur against Wales forward Samson Lee during last month's RBS 6 Nations Championship game at Twickenham.

A three-man independent judicial committee suspended Marler following a hearing in London, World Rugby announced. He was also fined ?20,000 - to be paid to a suitable equality charity - after a misconduct charge against him was upheld.

The 25-year-old, who has won 42 caps, had avoided any sanction from Six Nations chiefs and the Rugby Football Union following the March 12 incident, but World Rugby launched independent action.


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World Rugby said the misconduct charge was "admitted in its entirety" by Marler.

Marler apologised to Wales prop Lee at half-time in the match on March 12, and he took to Twitter on Monday night, apologising to "anyone who was offended" and that he would accept the World Rugby ruling.

He is now banned until April 18, and will miss Quins' European Challenge Cup quarter-final against London Irish on Saturday, plus an Aviva Premiership appointment with league leaders Saracens at Wembley seven days later.

Marler initially avoided a suspension after Six Nations chiefs judged his remorse, apology at half-time and subsequent admonishing by England as sufficient punishment.

But World Rugby's decision to launch independent action outlined a level of dissatisfaction with that move, leaving the Six Nations disciplinary process under almost as much scrutiny during the past 24 days as Marler himself.

In a statement issued following what was thought to be a six-hour hearing on Tuesday, World Rugby said: "Joe Marler has been suspended for two matches and fined ?20,000 to be paid to a suitable equality charity in the UK after an independent judicial committee upheld a misconduct charge against the player at a hearing in London today.

"A misconduct charge was brought by World Rugby against Marler in relation to a breach of Regulation 20 and the code of conduct, for comments made towards Samson Lee during the England versus Wales RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham on 12 March.

"Regulation 20 and the code of conduct both cover statements that are unsporting and/or insulting and/or discriminatory by reason of race or ethnic origin, which bring or have the potential to bring the game into disrepute.

"The charge was admitted in its entirety by Marler and upheld by the independent judicial panel comprising Terry Willis (chair, Australia), Jean-Noel Couraud (France) and Alan Hudson (Canada)."

The statement continued: "Following a full review of all the evidence, including a detailed analysis of the broadcast feed, referee microphone, statements and submissions on behalf of Marler by his representative Mark Milliken-Smith QC, and World Rugby, the committee found:

"That Marler had used unsporting and discriminatory language towards Lee.

"That by his actions, Marler had breached World Rugby Regulation 20 and the code of conduct and brought the game into disrepute.

"That Marler was proactive in apologising to Lee at half-time during the match, and that he subsequently issued a public and unreserved apology for his comments.

"That Marler is a person of good character and had no similar misconduct charges."

The committee determined that Marler's breach was serious, and imposed their sanction.

Marler has a right of appeal within seven days of notification of the full written decision.

The RFU said on Tuesday night that the independent committee's decision would not be appealed.

"We acknowledge the outcome of today's hearing," an RFU spokesman said.

"The decision will not be appealed, and we now consider the matter closed.

"Our views on the subject are already on the record. We will not be making any further comment."

In his Twitter post on Monday night, Marler 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 am 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."

Following the Wales game, Marler came off the bench in the 31-21 victory over France in Paris seven days later that secured England's first Grand Slam since 2003.

In a statement issued following the Marler verdict, Six Nations Rugby said: "Following its original investigation into this matter, Six Nations Rugby considered the issues carefully.

"It took into account all relevant matters, including Mr Marler's immediate and unsolicited apology and his reprimand by the England head coach, Eddie Jones, as well as what it understood to be the views of Samson Lee, the subject of Mr Marler's remarks.

"Six Nations Rugby made it clear that it did not condone what had been said by Mr Marler in the match, but it decided, in all the circumstances, that it would not take any further disciplinary action against Mr Marler.

"World Rugby has, in its regulations, over-arching disciplinary powers, which it has sought to exercise in this case. It is clear from the decision today that World Rugby disagreed with Six Nations Rugby's assessment in this case. Six Nations Rugby has no difficulty with that.

"Six Nations Rugby fully co-operated with World Rugby's disciplinary process in this case, and fully supports and endorses World Rugby's disciplinary regime in international rugby. Six Nations Rugby will continue to uphold the game's values in the Six Nations Championships and elsewhere."

Is Joe Marler's two-game suspension fair? Have your say in the comments section below!

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