Danny Care has jumped to Joe Marler’s defence after the England prop was cited for grabbing Alun Wyn Jones’ genitals during the side’s 33-30 victory over Wales in the Six Nations.
England’s disciplinary issues were again brought to the fore after Ellis Genge was sin-binned and Manu Tuilagi was shown a red card for a no-arms tackle on George North. But much of the talk after the bad-tempered Twickenham clash surrounded Marler’s questionable behaviour in the first half.
The Harlequins loosehead reached for the sensitive area of Wyn Jones during a scuffle involving players from both teams in the eighth minute and the Wales captain immediately gesticulated towards the officials to make them aware of the incident.
Marler escaped punishment from referee Ben O’Keeffe and remained on the field until being substituted in the 66th minute, but the 29-year-old has since been cited by the Six Nations commissioner, along with Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes after their dangerous tackles on North and Wyn Jones.
All three players will appear before a disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday. If Marler is found guilty he could be set for a season-ending ban of at least 12 weeks.
England scrum-half Care, who shares a dressing room with Marler at Harlequins, understands the backlash against Marler but insists his team-mate was just trying to make light of the situation.
‘It’s one of those things that if you know Joe and you’ve played with him or spent a lot of time with him, you know he hasn’t done it in a malicious way. You know he hasn’t gone out there to annoy anyone or anger anyone or disrespect anyone. He’s done it in Joe’s way of being Joe,’ Care said on BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
‘Alun Wyn Jones is a team-mate of his from the Lions, I’m pretty sure they’re mates. The scuffle has broken out, Joe’s tried to make light of it and do what he’s done on Alun Wyn Jones.
‘They don’t [sound like mates] which is news to me. When I saw it, I just thought it was two lads messing around who were good mates but I can completely understand the massively split reaction.’
He added: ‘Out of the context of sport and a bit of banter it obviously isn’t funny. You put that in any other place of work and there’s going to be some serious repercussions from it.
‘I think anyone involved in rugby… things like that are seen as a joke. It’s seen as a bit of banter.
‘Exeter Chiefs, a few years back, every single try they scored they would all bundle on each other and tap each other on the genitals. That was there way of celebrating which we all thought was weird but I never thought anything of it other than it was just a bit strange.
‘So to see Joe doing that, in my personal opinion and this isn’t the opinion of everyone, I don’t see an awful lot wrong with it. I think it’s a bit of a joke between two guys who have played against each other and know each other and he’s trying to make light of the situation.’
Many condemned Gareth Thomas for his joke about the incident during his half-time analysis, but Care applauded his ‘brilliant’ reaction and admits he was surprised by Wyn Jones’ post-match comments.
Asked about Wyn Jones calling for retrospective action against Marler, Care said: ‘That’s where it’s made it a bigger issue than it maybe needed to be. I thought Gareth Thomas at half-time was brilliant and made a joke of it.
‘If you went back and looked at the last 500 games of top-level rugby you’d find a lot of incidents that are very similar to what Joe did.
‘It’s happened to me in games. People have slapped your arse or if there’s a bit of niggle and you’re with one of your mates.’
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