England rugby star Joe Marler faces ban for grabbing opponent's genitals

9 March 2020, 16:34

Joe Marler (L) grabbed Alun Wyn Jones (R) by the genitals during the game
Joe Marler (L) grabbed Alun Wyn Jones (R) by the genitals during the game. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

England rugby union star Joe Marler has been cited for bad sportsmanship after grabbing an opponent's genitals during Saturday's Six Nations win against Wales.

The Harlequins prop is facing a potential ban of up to 24 weeks for recklessly endangering an opponent following the incident.

During a fiery exchange with rivals Wales, the forward was seen grabbing opposition captain Alun Wyn Jones by the genitals.

The incident was not seen by any of the match officials during the game, however, the Welsh captain later urged World Rugby to review the incident.

Speaking at Wales' post-match press conference, Jones said: "I've got 138 Tests for my country. If I react, I get a red card. It's tough, isn't it?

"Hopefully World Rugby have a look at it. Joe's a good bloke, lots of things happen on a rugby field."

Joe Marler has a chequered disciplinary history on the rugby pitch
Joe Marler has a chequered disciplinary history on the rugby pitch. Picture: Getty

Marler is now set to face a disciplinary hearing with Six Nations bosses in Dublin on Thursday.

World Rugby's punishment for "testicle grabbing or twisting or squeezing" ranges from a suspension of 12 weeks to 24 weeks or, perhaps, even longer.

A Six Nations statement confirming Marler's citing read: "The England number one Joe Marler has been cited for an alleged infringement of Law 9.27 (a player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship - hair pulling or grabbing; Spitting at anyone; grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals and/or breasts in the case of female players) during the Guinness Six Nations England v Wales match last Saturday.

"A disciplinary hearing will take place on Thursday 12 March, 2020, in Dublin."

Some people on social media have accused Marler of sexual assault and have expressed anger at the incident being "turned into a joke."

Former Wales player Gareth Thomas - who, in 2009, became the first rugby player to publicly come out as gay - was criticised for comments he made while commentating on the game.

He said: "It would never have happened in my day and I’m really upset about that — because if it had I would have never retired."

In response to the social media backlash, the former rugby star later said: "To the very small minority of people who were offended by my comment yesterday I apologise.

"I tried to find humour in a situation - that doesn’t mean I condone it, it means I wanted it to not be an issue.

"So don’t change the narrative to justify how you feel. Be kind."

Marler posted a cryptic tweet on his social media following the match, however it is unclear if this is related.

It read: "B******s. Complete b******s."

Some people have replied to his post, suggesting he deserves a criminal record.

Marler's England teammate Courtney Lawes will also face a hearing on Thursday having been cited for a dangerous tackle during the match.

Manu Tuilagi's automatic hearing following a red card infraction will also be held at the same time, with the centre also set to discover if he will be suspended.

England beat their Welsh neighbours by 33 points to 30 and now sit top of the Six Nations table, with one game left to play.

They can win the competition if they beat bottom-placed Italy in a game that has been postponed until a later date because of the coronavirus outbreak.