Six Nations

Gatland sorry for labelling Marler-Lee episode as 'banter'

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has issued an apology after dismissing England prop Joe Marler's abuse of Samson Lee as "banter".

Marler apologised during half-time of England's 25-21 Six Nations win over Wales last Saturday for calling Lee "gypsy boy" and was reminded of his responsibilities by the Rugby Football Union.

Gatland labelled the incident as "just a bit of banter" during a media conference on Tuesday.

However, on Wednesday he issued a statement through the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) that read: "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, 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.

"He believed Joe 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.

"While we await the findings of the Six Nations investigation into this incident it would be inappropriate for me, Samson or the team to comment further on this matter."

A statement from WRU officials added: "The WRU does not condone racism of any kind.

"The incident is being investigated by Six Nations and we would welcome a definitive and speedy conclusion to their investigation.

"The WRU recognises that Warren's overriding intention was to protect Samson by playing down the incident and that his comments were made following a thorough consultation with Samson and with his support."