Danny Care has come to the defence of Joe Marler by suggesting he would not be facing a season-ending suspension on Thursday had Alun Wyn Jones ended up on the winning side last weekend – hinting that the Wales captain was being a sore loser by urging the authorities to act. Care also insisted “I’ve lost count of the number of people who have touched my genitals in a game of rugby”, as he sought to play down the incident.
His Harlequins teammate Marler is due in front of a disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday after he was cited for grabbing Jones’s genitals during the first half of England’s 33-30 win against Wales. The incident was picked up on camera and quickly went viral with Jones later calling on officials to intervene. If found guilty Marler is facing a ban of at least 12 weeks for an incident which has polarised opinion – dismissed as a harmless joke by some and vehemently condemned by others.
Paul Gustard, the Harlequins head of rugby, claimed on Wednesday that the incident was being blown out of proportion compared to the red card and subsequent three-week ban for the France prop Mohamed Haouas, who punched Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie last weekend, as well as Manu Tuilagi’s sending off for a shoulder to the head of George North.
Care, meanwhile, acknowledged “you don’t want kids seeing that” but he feels the Wales captain would have reacted differently had his side won last Saturday.
“I don’t see it as a big deal,” Care said. “If Wales win that game I don’t think it’s as big an issue as it is. Alun Wyn Jones’s reaction after the game is probably a disappointed and angry Alun Wyn Jones, and that is a way to take a bit of that anger out. That’ll be my penny’s worth. You could see there was no malice in it, it’s a joke between two old teammates. I can understand why people have seen it the wrong way, you don’t want to see kids seeing that. It was in a rugby environment and it happens a lot.”
Gustard was reluctant to comment until the outcome of Marler’s hearing on Thursday, when Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes will also learn their fates for dangerous tackles during England’s win last weekend. But the former England assistant coach did say: “The furore over this incident doesn’t seem to be mirrored in the same amount of media coverage and people talking about the French [prop] that could have broken someone’s jaw with a punch. Or a vicious tackle with no arms. That’s kind of a frustration for me from a different point of view, because the safety of players is paramount.”
Gustard may call on Kyle Sinckler for Harlequins’ Premiership Rugby Cup final against Sale on Sunday with England’s scheduled Six Nations match in Italy postponed because of the coronavirus. With few Premiership clubs making a profit, Gustard conceded it could be catastrophic if future matches had to be played behind closed doors because of fears over the spread of the virus. “If we take away one of the club’s biggest sources of revenue, there could be ramifications. I’m not sure how viable it would be.”