England prop Joe Marler has been handed a 10-week suspension by a disciplinary panel after he grabbed opposing captain Alun Wyn Jones’ groin during his side’s victory over Wales in the Six Nations last weekend.
After just 10 minutes of the Twickenham game a melee broke out when Wales had a try disallowed for a George North knock-on, and the incident was caught on camera. Marler was cited on Monday over the incident and has now been sentenced to a 10-week ban, the Six Nations announced on Thursday.
A statement read: “The citing complaint alleged that Marler had infringed Law 9.27 (acts against the spirit of good sportsmanship) when, in the first half of the match, he grabbed, twisted or squeezed the genitals of a Welsh player.
“The Harlequins prop accepted that he had committed an act of foul play, albeit that he did not accept that he had grabbed, twisted or squeezed the genitals of the Welsh player and he did not accept that it warranted a red card.”
The minimum ban for an act of foul play is set at 12 weeks, although the disciplinary committee reduced Marler’s suspension by three weeks to take into account “mitigating factors”, but increased it by a week due to the forward’s recent disciplinary record.
International teammate Manu Tuilagi also stood in front of the disciplinary panel and was given a four-week suspension after he received a red card for a crashing his shoulder into the head of George North while making a try-saving tackle in the closing stages of the match.
Head coach Eddie Jones later described the decision to dismiss Tuilagi as “rubbish”, but RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney has since apologised for the comments.
“The Rugby Football Union does not condone comments that in any way undermine the integrity of match officials, who are central to the sport and its values,” Sweeney said.
“We have discussed with England head coach Eddie Jones the nature of the comments he made to the media in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic finish to the England versus Wales Guinness Six Nations match on Saturday, and have made it clear that such comments are not in line with the values of the sport or the RFU.
“Eddie and the RFU regret any implication that Ben O’Keefe was biased in his decision making.”
A third England international Courtney Lawes was also present for an allegedly dangerous tackle during the victory over Wales, but he escaped a ban.
England’s championship finale against Italy in Rome was postponed indefinitely last week due to coronavirus outbreak, with France vs. Ireland in Paris also called off.
Wales vs. Scotland is still scheduled to go ahead at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.