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RFU chief Ritchie: Marler comment inappropriate but matter should now be closed

Published 22/03/2016

Ian Ritchie believes the Joe Marler-Samson Lee case should be closed
Ian Ritchie believes the Joe Marler-Samson Lee case should be closed

England chief Ian Ritchie believes RBS 6 Nations bosses clearing Joe Marler over his "gypsy boy" slur to Samson Lee "should be the end of the matter".

Harlequins prop Marler escaped with a reprimand after insulting Scarlets front-rower Lee in England's 25-21 victory over Wales at Twickenham earlier this month

England coach Eddie Jones scolded Marler before the Six Nations committee accepted his private and public apology to Lee as sufficient, opting not to impose any punishments.

World Rugby has since launched an investigation into the process behind clearing Marler, and could yet enforce sanctions on the 25-year-old - but Ritchie has backed the Six Nations' disciplinary rulings.

"Let's take some perspective and let's not deflect from what we did in terms of the Grand Slam," said Rugby Football Union chief executive Ritchie.

"What Joe said was entirely inappropriate, he recognised that, he apologised very quickly and has apologised publicly since then.

"It's pretty clear that nobody made a complaint about it, and I think Samson Lee's reaction to it has been evident and he accepted the apology.

"Eddie and I spoke about it and when Eddie talks to someone that person is left in no doubt as to the appropriate nature of his behaviour, and that it should not be repeated.

"There was no citing officer complaint, there was no referee complaint, and the Six Nations looked at the matter fully as well, and came to a conclusion.

"So as far as I'm concerned that should be the end of the matter."

Marler came off the bench to help England claim their first Grand Slam since 2003 in Saturday's 31-21 victory over France in Paris.

He apologised to Lee at half-time during the Wales match a week earlier, said to have quickly realised his insult was unacceptable.

Marler is not yet in the clear however, with World Rugby expected to announce in the coming days whether it will take further action.

"If they want to look at it, they should look at it, and so be it," said Ritchie.

"I don't think nothing was done, I think all of the things I've just outlined were what happened and what was done.

"Apology was offered and accepted, it was inappropriate, it was wrong, and I think that is the best way to deal with it.

"World Rugby may well take action and if that's the case, that's the case.

"That's a matter for them. But when you look at the various groupings of people who looked at it, including the Six Nations, they came to a conclusion.

"If World Rugby wish to pursue it and there's a different conclusion, all I can do is say so be it."

When asked if he considered Marler's slur on Lee a racist comment, Ritchie replied: "I think 'inappropriate' is the right phrase for me.

"I think it's important as to how the recipient, if I can put it that way, receives it.

"We've made it extremely clear: this is not the sort of comment that you want to see. Joe understands that, it's very forcibly been made to him.

"If it goes to something World Rugby will appoint some sort of body to look at it, and that again is up to them. I can't interfere in that and frankly I accept whatever is the due process."

When challenged to justify England letting Marler off with a warning amid external consternation, Ritchie replied: "I'd love to know where this angst is coming from because none of it has been in my direction."

The National Alliance of the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Women claimed to have written to the RFU to call for Marler to receive a ban.

But Ritchie insisted: "I haven't seen or heard angst."

Former head coach Stuart Lancaster gained wide plaudits for cleaning up England's image after a string of off-field incidents when he took charge following the 2011 World Cup.

Outspoken new Australian boss Jones has delivered an immediate Grand Slam but had to fend off several controversies, including Marler's spat with Lee. Ritchie remains adamant however that England uphold the same ethical standards now as under Lancaster.

"All the England teams are reminded of their responsibilities: they are very clear about their responsibilities," said Ritchie.

"They were very clear under Stuart and they are very clear under Eddie and I don't think those sorts of values or responsibilities have changed.

"The same sorts of standards; hard work, commitment from the players, appropriate behaviour from the players, they are all as strong under Eddie as they were under Stuart.

"If there is inappropriate behaviour within the squad then I'm absolutely sure that Eddie will be down on it like a ton of bricks."

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