England prop Joe Marler has been "hung out to dry" in what Rugby Players' Association (RPA) chief executive Damian Hopley labelled an "excruciating media witch hunt" following his comments to Samson Lee at the Six Nations.
Marler was cited for calling Wales' Lee 'gypsy boy' during the match at Twickenham on March 12, but, after apologising at half-time, he faced no further punishment from the competition organisers or the Rugby Football Union.
However, World Rugby judged that the 25-year-old contravened the laws of the game and have set a misconduct hearing for April 5.
The RPA has criticised the governing body's decision to step in, suggesting their involvement after the issue had initially been settled "smacks of double jeopardy".
"Now that the World Rugby hearing date has finally been set, over three weeks since the matter was concluded by the Six Nations, it is important to place on the record how we have watched the events around this on-going disciplinary process unfold in a state of disbelief," Hopley said via an RPA statement.
"As people throughout the game know, Joe is no racist. He made a comment when provoked and is now being hung out to dry in this excruciating media witch hunt whilst World Rugby have intervened against the RFU [Rugby Football Union] and the Six Nations.
"To put Joe in this position after he apologised to the opposition player, admitted his error of judgement and also received a severe rebuke from the RFU and the tournament smacks of double jeopardy.
"Everyone recognises there is no place in the game for these provocations but let's be absolutely clear, Joe is not racially motivated and this matter should have been closed when it was originally dealt with three weeks ago.
"We will be watching the ensuing process extremely carefully but the thought of World Rugby calling for yet another hearing and therefore prolonging this episode defies belief. The apology was accepted, Joe held his hands up and it is now time to draw a line and move on."