Wales head coach Warren Gatland has apologised for referring to an abusive comment aimed at prop Samson Lee by England’s Joe Marler as “just banter”.
Marler apologised to Lee for calling him a “Gypsy boy” during Saturday’s Six Nations match at Twickenham.
Gatland made his comment on Tuesday, but, in a statement on Wednesday, said: “I don’t condone racism of any kind.”
Lee added: “I personally believe the comments to have been intended as banter and accepted Joe’s apology.”
Marler faces a hearing on Wednesday after being cited for allegedly elbowing another Wales prop, Rob Evans, in England’s 25-21 victory.
Gatland continued: “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.”
After Gatland referred to Saturday’s incident as “banter”, ex-Wales captain Gareth Thomas tweeted: “I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with this as banter. Poor excuse.”
A Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) statement added: “The WRU does not condone racism of any kind. The incident is being investigated by the 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.”
In the statement, Lee said: “I stand beside Warren. I personally believe the comments to have been intended as banter and accepted Joe’s apology on Saturday.
“Warren is fiercely protective of the team and his comments were made based on conversations with me and with the intention of deflecting attention away from me.”
More to follow.