World Rugby has announced that it is seeking more information from Six Nations tournament organisers over its decision not to sanction Joe Marler for his controversial behaviour during the 25-21 victory over Wales on 12 March. Having already avoided any ban following his citing for striking Rob Evans with his forearm, the England loose-head faced further scrutiny for calling Samson Lee a "gypsy boy" during a first-half melee at Twickenham.
Lee has spoken openly of his traveller heritage in the past and Marler was widely condemned for his use of such a slur, despite saying sorry to his fellow prop at half-time and being given a stern reminder of his responsibilities by head coach Eddie Jones. That unprompted apology clearly went a long way to helping evade any further punishment and a subsequent ruling from Six Nations Rugby confirmed that it had accepted the comment as having been made in the "heat of the moment".
The decision not to take any further action has been met with incredulous response from some quarters and has also motivated World Rugby to look into the matter. Marler, who could have been subject to a four-week suspension, will begin England's Grand Slam decider against France in Paris this weekend from the replacements' bench having been dropped to make way for Mako Vunipola.
"World Rugby notes the outcome of Six Nations Rugby's investigation into comments made by England's Joe Marler towards Wales' Samson Lee during the RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham on 12 March, 2016," the governing body said.
"World Rugby Law 10.4(m) and Regulations 17 (Discipline) and 20 (Misconduct / Code of Conduct) deal with verbal abuse of players. World Rugby can confirm that, in accordance with its regulations, it has requested further information from Six Nations Rugby (the tournament organiser of the RBS Six Nations Championship) in respect of the process that led to its decision."
Marler has since released his own statement, pledging to conduct himself differently in future and insisting that he does not condone racism in any form. Wales coach Warren Gatland, meanwhile, has apologised for referring to the incident as banter. The Welsh Rugby Union claimed to be "surprised" by the decision and stated that the issue had raised broader questions that needed to be followed up.
"We are surprised by the decision of the Six Nations disciplinary hearing," the WRU said. "We stand by our belief that there is no place for the use of racist language in sport."
Jones is eager to draw a line under the episode ahead of a pivotal trip to the Stade de France, although has now invited controversy of his own. As quoted by The Guardian, he said at a press conference: "Maybe they [Wales] don't know whether they are Arthur or Martha. There was a decision made, that is what we have these judiciary committees for. I said I would let the process run its route – it has run its route."