• Joe Marler referred to Samson Lee as ‘gypsy boy’ against Wales 
  • Marler also pleaded guilty after being cited for striking Rob Evans 
  • However, a disciplinary panel deemed it wouldn’t warrant a red card 
  • Marler now looks set to start in crucial Six Nations finale in Paris 

Chris Foy for the Daily Mail

Joe Marler has been sensationally cleared to play for England in Paris on Saturday, after escaping a ban for striking one Wales prop and for aiming discriminatory comments at another.

The 25-year-old Harlequins prop is destined to be named at loosehead on Thursday morning when Eddie Jones reveals his line-up to face France in the RBS Six Nations finale, as the national team seek the win that will bring a first Grand Slam since 2003. It is a remarkable turn of events after Marler avoided punishment for a forearm smash on Rob Evans and for calling Samson Lee ‘gypsy boy’.

On Wednesday evening, a statement from Six Nations authorities revealed that a three-man disciplinary committee had upheld the citing against Marler for foul play against Evans, following a hearing in London, but ruled that his offence was not worthy of a red card, so no sanction was imposed. Hours later, a further statement from championship officials confirmed that no action would be taken over the verbal outburst aimed at Lee. 

Joe Marler (centre) clashes with Wales' prop Samson Lee after calling the latter a 'gypsy boy' on Saturday

Joe Marler (centre) clashes with Wales’ prop Samson Lee after calling the latter a ‘gypsy boy’ on Saturday

Following what was described as a ‘thorough investigation’, the verdict came as a surprise. It read: ‘Six Nations Rugby are aware of the seriousness of Mr Marler’s comment and do not in any way condone what was said. Six Nations Rugby have considered the reports in detail and noted the fact that Mr Marler deeply regretted what he had said and had immediately – and unprompted – apologised to Mr Lee at half-time. They also noted that England head coach Eddie Jones had reprimanded Mr Marler and reminded him of his responsibilities.

‘Six Nations Rugby have accepted the explanation provided that the comment was one made in the heat of the moment. Having taken all the facts into account, no further disciplinary action will be taken.’

A statement issued on behalf of Marler read: ‘I have accepted from the outset that I made the misguided remark to Samson. It was made in the heat of the moment. I apologised, unprompted, to Samson Lee at half time and this was accepted. I have been warned very clearly by Eddie Jones how comments like this are unacceptable. I will certainly conduct myself differently in future.

‘I do not condone racism in any form, at any time, deeply regret the incident and intend to reflect the behaviours expected of an England player going forward. Once again, I apologise for the upset my inappropriate remark has caused.’

England prop Joe Marler had escaped a ban for striking Wales counterpart Rob Evans despite pleading guilty

England prop Joe Marler had escaped a ban for striking Wales counterpart Rob Evans despite pleading guilty

Amid the long wait for a decisive, official response to the verbal jibe which has stirred up a storm, Wales head coach Warren Gatland issued a public apology on Wednesday, after referring to what was said as ‘a bit of banter’. He was forced to clarify that he was not making light of an emotive subject.

‘I don’t condone racism of any kind,’ said Gatland, in a statement released by the WRU. ‘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. 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.’

TV footage showed the  loosehead appearing to drive a forearm into  Wales prop Rob Evans' face

TV footage showed the loosehead appearing to drive a forearm into Wales prop Rob Evans’ face

A disciplinary panel on Wednesday deemed that Marler's (centre) offence would not have warranted a red card

A disciplinary panel on Wednesday deemed that Marler’s (centre) offence would not have warranted a red card

Lee has not yet spoken publicly about the episode, but a quote released by the WRU on his behalf read: ‘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 with the intention of deflecting attention away from me.’

As England awaited definitive news about Marler’s availability, forwards coach Steve Borthwick reiterated the party line from England that captain Dylan Hartley will be fit to start against France, despite missing training on Tuesday afternoon. That was explained as a means of managing his work-load, at the end of a gruelling campaign.

Meanwhile, while there have been indications that Jones will make other changes to his starting XV, aside from the enforced one at loosehead, Sportsmail understands that Manu Tuilagi will again have a replacement role, with George Ford and Owen Farrell resuming their 10-12 alliance.

England head coach Eddie Jones insisted that Marler apologised of his own accord for the incidents

England head coach Eddie Jones insisted that Marler apologised of his own accord for the incidents

Mako Vunipola, in action against Wales could step to replace Marler and Matt Mullan is also in the squad

Mako Vunipola, in action against Wales could step to replace Marler and Matt Mullan is also in the squad

 

 

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