Cape Town – Wales head coach Warren Gatland has said they have no issue with England prop Joe Marler’s “gypsy boy” remark aimed at prop Samson Lee.
The incident took place at Twickenham on Saturday during England’s Six Nations contest with Wales in which Marler was also cited for striking Wales prop Rob Evans with his forearm.
Marler apologised to his front row counterpart at half-time and, despite an apology and censoring from England, the Six Nations organisers have announced that the verdict on possible punishment will only be made once his strike offence has been heard on Wednesday afternoon.
Gatland said that they didn’t have a problem with Marler’s comment and also said that Lee accepted it as a bit of on-field banter.
“Look, we have no issue,” Gatland told Press Association.
“It was just a bit of banter, as far as I am concerned. And that’s the way that Samson saw it.
“Joe said to him at half-time it was only just a bit of fun, and Samson said he has no issue. It’s just banter on the rugby field. Fifteen, 20 years ago, those things were sorted out with fists and stuff.
“Look, we don’t want to make a massive issue out of it. Let’s put it to bed, really. I was more concerned about the forearm. He has been cited for it, and we will see what the outcome is. It was just one of those things, a little bit of banter, and we’ve accepted that and we’ve accepted the apology and just move on.
“But, in modern sport, players have got to be aware that there are microphones everywhere and you have to act accordingly to the possibility that comments are going to be picked up on the field.”
Shay Clipson, chairwoman of the National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller and Romany Women, didn’t take it as lighlty and has called for Marler to be banned, stating the incident has not been treated seriously.
“If it is not addressed robustly then it undermines the damage and hurt that racism can and does cause,” said Clipson.
“Joe Marler should be reprimanded for the racist incident, not only for the offence this will have caused to Gypsy and traveller people in the UK — especially our young people who look to sports personalities as role models, but also because it brings the game into disrepute.”
“They are not showing genuine concern which does not fill me with hope.”
England’s 25-21 win over Wales secured them the Six Nations title and put them well on track for their first Grand Slam since 2003, while Gatland’s men will claim the runners-up spot if they beat Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
“To finish second would be a reasonable achievement, and hopefully a stepping stone into New Zealand (on tour) this summer,” he added.
“We’ve spoken about how our next challenge as a side is to continue to develop and to start beating these southern hemisphere teams.
“We get a chance in June against New Zealand, who are obviously in a rebuilding phase, having lost so many experienced players. We have to be pretty excited about that.”