Warren Gatland apologises for 'banter' remark on Joe Marler-Samson Lee incident
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has apologised for any offence his use of the word "banter" may have caused when reflecting on last Saturday's Joe Marler-Samson Lee incident at Twickenham.
Marler is still waiting to discover if his verbal abuse of Wales tighthead Lee during last Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash is to result in any punishment from disciplinary chiefs.
The delay in publishing the findings into the incident during which Marler called Lee "gypsy boy" comes despite the Harlequins loosehead having apologised to his rival at half-time for the comment and England censuring the player and reminding him of his conduct.
Asked on Tuesday during a Wales press conference for his views on the Marler-Lee episode, Gatland said: "Look, we have no issue. It was just a bit of banter, as far as I am concerned. And that's the way that Samson said 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.
"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. It's not an issue for us."
The Welsh Rugby Union, however, issued a statement on Wednesday, with Gatland stating: "I don't condone racism of any kind. I apologise for any offence my use of the word banter may have caused.
"My intention was to take the focus away from Samson, a private individual, and enable him and the rest of squad to prepare for the final game of the championship (against Italy on Saturday).
"My comments were made following a discussion with Samson about the incident.
"He believed Joe made his comment in the heat of the moment, he later regretted it and apologised, but Samson believes it wasn't racist in intent and he accepted Joe's apology.
"While we await the findings of the Six Nations investigation into this incident, it would be inappropriate for me, Samson or the team to comment further on this matter."
As part of the same WRU statement, Scarlets forward Lee said: "I would like to explain my point of view. I stand beside Warren. I personally believe the comments to have been intended as banter and accepted Joe's apology on Saturday.
"Warren is fiercely protective of the team, and his comments were made based on conversations with me and with the intention of deflecting attention away from me."
The WRU, meanwhile, said it would welcome a "definitive and speedy" conclusion by the Six Nations to its investigation.
"The WRU does not condone racism of any kind," the governing body said.
"The incident is being investigated by (the) Six Nations, and we would welcome a definitive and speedy conclusion to their investigation.
"The WRU recognises that Warren's overriding intention was to protect Samson by playing down the incident, and that his comments were made following a thorough consultation with Samson and with his support."