(Reuters) - England prop Joe Marler has come under the microscope for grabbing Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones in the groin area during Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham, with former coach Clive Woodward condemning the incident.
Ten minutes into England’s narrow 33-30 win, a melee broke out when Wales had a try disallowed for a George North knock-on and the incident was caught on camera when the two teams squared up.
Jones, a veteran of 138 tests, said he could not react as he feared getting a red card and hoped World Rugby would take a second look at the incident.
“I have no idea what Joe Marler was up to with Alun Wyn Jones in the first half,” ITV pundit Woodward, who coached England to World Cup glory in 2003, said.
“What did Marler think he was doing? Millions were watching on the TV, including kids, and that has no part in our game.
“And say Jones had chosen to kick off and retaliated with a flurry of punches, that would have been caused totally by Marler’s stupidity. The authorities might yet take a dim view.”
According to World Rugby law 9.27, “a player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship” with grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals warranting a minimum suspension of 12 weeks and a maximum of four years.
Jones, however, said Marler was “a good bloke” and the incident needed to be taken “in the context of the game”.
Former Wales international Gareth Thomas tried to lighten the mood at halftime, saying: “It would have never have happened in my day and I’m really upset about that because if it had I would never have retired.”
While many found his statement funny, he too received some flak but the 45-year-old later defended himself, saying he did not condone what Marler did.
Former England international turned pundit Andy Goode was not impressed with Thomas trying to defuse the situation with humour.
“People think it’s funny but the values our game has been built around aren’t in great shape at the minute,” he said on Twitter regarding the Marler incident.
“Imagine if someone touched another man or woman up in the workplace and then someone joked about it on TV.”
The defeat left Wales fourth in the standings while England are second with 13 points — tied with leaders France who play Scotland later on Sunday.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis