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16th Mar 2016

Warren Gatland sorry for ‘banter’ remark as England-Wales gypsy slur explodes

Slur saga

Patrick McCarry

It was only banter.

Famous words spoken by an odious man. But enough about Richard Keys.

Joe Marler was in hot water for allegedly calling Welsh prop Samon Lee ‘gypsy boy’ during England’s Six Nations victory last weekend. The citing commission are currently investigating the incident and Harlequins, Marler’s club, say their player will be disciplined.

Wales, who play Italy on Saturday, attempted to move on from the furore but head coach Warren Gatland chose his words wrong, and so the New Zealander has been forced to backtrack after describing the comment as ‘banter’.


By being dismissive of what is deemed to be a racist remark, Gatland invoked the fury of Welsh phone-in shows, politicians, the national gypsy alliance and the countless comment sections of Wales Online.

Having been urged to retract his ‘banter’ statement, Gatland has now issued this apology:

‘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 [Lee], a private individual, and enable him and the rest of squad to prepare for the final game of the championship.

‘My comments were made following a discussion with Samson about the incident.┬áHe believed Joe [Marle] 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.’

The Welsh Rugby Union and Lee, himself, have both issued statements on the matter. While the WRU take a hard line on racist comments, Lee uses the ‘B’ word again:

‘I personally believe the comments to have been intended as banter and accepted Joe’s apology on Saturday.’

One wise soul has a solution to the second part of the fiasco:

As for Marler, he should try buttoning it for a while.