England's Marler gets 10-week ban for grabbing Wales captain's testicles

by Julian GUYER
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Banned - England prop Joe Marler

England prop Joe Marler was given a 10-week ban on Thursday for grabbing Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones by the testicles during a Six Nations match at Twickenham last weekend.

The ban threatens to sideline Marler for the remainder of the European season.

Suspensions in rugby union apply across all tournaments and Marler cannot resume playing again until June 8, although the Harlequins front-row does have the right of appeal.

England centre Manu Tuilagi, sent off in the same match for a high tackle on George North, was suspended for four weeks.

But the same disciplinary hearing in Dublin cleared Courtney Lawes of making a dangerous tackle after the England flanker was cited following his side's 33-30 win last Saturday.

No action was taken against Marler during the match but he was cited afterwards by Peter Ferguson, the match citing commissioner.

Marler accepted he had committed an act of foul play but contested the citing that he "grabbed, twisted or squeezed the genitals" of an opponent.

Nevertheless, the disciplinary committee deemed the offence worthy of a red card.

- 'Frustrating' -

Marler was banned for 12 weeks, reduced by three due to certain mitigating factors -- including good character and remorse -- but with another week added on account of his recent disciplinary record.

Following the match, veteran Wales lock Jones -- who showed admirable restraint in not retaliating on the field -- voiced his disappointment with the lack of punishment Marler received during the game.

"A lot of footage was shown, a lot of supporters have seen what happened, it's just very frustrating," said the Wales skipper.

"We talk a lot about the TMO (television match official) footage and review but not a lot's happened."

Tuilagi was sent off five minutes from time for a dangerous "no arms" tackle that connected with the head of Wales wing North.

The powerhouse midfielder argued the offence did not warrant a red card but the committee disagreed, banning him for six weeks minus two for mitigating factors, with Tuilagi free to resume playing on April 14.

England coach Eddie Jones, speaking soon after the match, labelled the decision to dismiss Tuilagi "bizarre" although many observers felt referee Ben O'Keeffe had little choice.

Jones went even further, accusing O'Keeffe of being biased in Wales' favour by saying England had been playing "against 16".

England's governing Rugby Football Union apologised on Jones' behalf earlier Thursday.

But neither the RFU nor the Six Nations took disciplinary action against the veteran Australian coach.

Victory over the reigning Grand Slam champions revived World Cup finalists England's title bid.

But the future of the 2020 Six Nations remains unclear.

Two of the three matches -- Italy v England and France v Ireland -- for what was meant to be this Saturday's final day of the Championship have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week's fixture between Ireland and Italy in Dublin was held over for similar reasons.

No new dates have yet been announced for the delayed games.

Banned - England prop Joe Marler

Controversial challenge - Manu Tuilagi (C) tackles Wales' wing George North in an incident that saw the England centre shown a red card