The unsavoury saga involving Joe Marler is set to make headlines once again on Tuesday 5 April, as the Harlequins and England prop attends a World Rugby misconduct hearing in London following his controversial behaviour during the 2016 Six Nations victory over Wales at Twickenham last month. IBTimes UK recaps everything we know about the sorry situation so far...
During a scuffle that occurred during the first half of the aforementioned 25-21 win, Marler was picked up on referee Craig Joubert's microphone appearing to aim a derogatory "gypsy boy" slur at Samson Lee, the Welsh tight-head who is from a traveller background. Having sought out his opponent to deliver an unprompted half-time apology, he was later provided with a serious reminder of his responsibilities as an international player by head coach Eddie Jones before being heavily criticised in the media.
The issue of whether or not the 25-year-old should be retrospectively punished for such an episode was initially complicated by his delayed citing for striking opposite number Rob Evans with a forearm during the same match. He avoided any sanction for that incident when an independent committee ruled that it was not worthy of a red card. There was a further shocked reaction as he evaded punishment altogether when the Six Nations accepted that the comment towards Lee had been made in the heat of the moment.
That ruling had initially looked to draw a line under the controversial matter, but it was brought to the fore once again when World Rugby, union's international governing body, confirmed that they had "requested further information from Six Nations Rugby in respect of the process that led to its decision".
It was later clarified that Marler's comments "amounted to misconduct and/or a breach of the code of conduct under World Rugby Regulation 20 and should have been considered by an independent process." World Rugby then said they were exercising their right to take appropriate action in the absence of such a process from the Six Nations organisers.
The surprising decision to set a hearing more than three weeks after the Six Nations' seemingly final decision drew a fiery and impassioned defence from a disbelieving Rugby Players' Association (RPA), with founder and chief executive Damian Hopley lamenting an "excruciating media witch hunt" that has supposedly hung Marler "out to dry". He further claimed that to put Marler in this position after an accepted apology and a stern reprimand from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) "smacks of double jeopardy".
Marler's case will be heard by a three-man committee appointed by the independent judicial chairman, which includes Terry Willis of Australia, France's Jean-Noël Couraud and Alan Hudson from Canada. Potential punishments, if indeed one is forthcoming, range from a four-week ban to a much heftier suspension.
Harlequins, currently sixth in the Aviva Premiership with three games remaining, play struggling London Irish on 9 April in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup. England are next in action in June, when they travel to Jones' native Australia for a summer tour that includes three Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.