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Joe Marler faces season-ending ban for grabbing Jones' groin in Wales game | Sport


Joe Marler is facing a season-ending suspension after he was cited for grabbing Alun Wyn Jones’s genitals during England’s Six Nations win over Wales. Marler will attend a disciplinary hearing on Thursday and if found guilty he can expect a ban of at least 12 weeks.

Marler may hope the length of any suspension is reduced for mitigating factors but his list of previous transgressions would count against him and a 12-week ban would make him unavailable for the start of England’s summer tour of Japan if Harlequins do not reach the Premiership play-offs. That would in turn raise questions over whether he has played his last match for England. The disciplinary panel may also take a dim view of Marler’s tweet on Sunday in which he wrote: “Bollocks. Complete bollocks.”

Courtney Lawes has also been cited for a dangerous tackle on Jones in the second half of England’s 33-30 victory and he too faces a Six Nations disciplinary hearing on Thursday, as does Manu Tuilagi following his red card for a shoulder to George North’s head. The Six Nations has not yet taken any action against Eddie Jones for his stinging criticism of the referee Ben O’Keeffe over Tuilagi’s sending off.

World Rugby does not intend to intervene – it considers the issue a matter for the Six Nations – but Jones could also face an investigation by the Rugby Football Union. In 2005 the then England head coach Andy Robinson was investigated by the RFU’s disciplinary officer at the time, Jeff Blackett, for disparaging comments made about the referee Jonathan Kaplan.

Marler’s bizarre incident with Alun Wyn Jones was caught on camera and quickly went viral during the match. It has polarised opinion – dismissed as a light-hearted attempt to wind-up the Wales captain in some quarters and met with condemnation in others. Jones, for his part, took issue with the incident, calling on the authorities to act, and Marler has now been cited under World Rugby’s law that states players must not “grab, twist or squeeze the genitals”. While examples of similar incidents are rare, the London Irish lock George Robson was banned for six weeks in 2016 for grabbing an opponent’s testicles.

If it does prove to be Marler’s last England appearance it would be a disappointing way to bow out, if not entirely out of character for the 29-year-old. He retired from international rugby in September 2018 but reversed the decision last summer and played his part in England reaching the World Cup final. This Six Nations, however, he has established himself as England’s first-choice loosehead prop.

Lawes, meanwhile, faces a ban of at least six weeks after his dangerous tackle made contact with Jones’s head. The incident occurred in the 66th minute and Jones required treatment. Lawes will hope for mitigation but he could miss Northampton’s Champions Cup quarter-final at Exeter on 4 April. Tuilagi is also facing a six-week ban.

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