England prop Joe Marler has been ‘hung out to dry’ and made the subject of ‘an excruciating media witch-hunt’ after being called to account by World Rugby over the Samson Lee ‘gypsy boy’ insult, according to the English Rughy Players Association.
Chief executive Damian Hopley has released the following statement following the news that Marler will face World Rugby chiefs next week to answer for his racial slur directed at Lee during England’s win against Wales at Twickenham earlier this month.
“Now that the World Rugby hearing date has finally been set, over three weeks since the matter was concluded by the 6 Nations, it is important to place on the record how we have watched the events around this ongoing disciplinary process unfold in a state of disbelief.
“As people throughout the game know, Joe is no racist. He made a comment when provoked and is now being hung out to dry in this excruciating media witch hunt whilst World Rugby have intervened against the RFU and the 6 Nations.
“To put Joe in this position after he apologised to the opposition player, admitted his error of judgement and also received a severe rebuke from the RFU and the Tournament smacks of double jeopardy.
“Everyone recognises there is no place in the game for these provocations but let’s be absolutely clear, Joe is not racially motivated and this matter should have been closed when it was originally dealt with three weeks ago.
“We will be watching the ensuing process extremely carefully but the thought of World Rugby calling for yet another hearing and therefore prolonging this episode defies belief. The apology was accepted, Joe held his hand up and it is now time to draw a line and move on.”