England prop Joe Marler is no racist, insists Rugby Football Union chief Ian Ritchie

 
Frank Dalleres
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Ian Ritchie backs prop Marler's ticking off and says Jones just as strict as Lancaster (Source: Getty)

England rugby boss Ian Ritchie insists the team’s ethical standards are just as robust under new head coach Eddie Jones as they were under his predecessor Stuart Lancaster.

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ritchie has defended Jones’s regime as World Rugby continues to probe Red Rose star Joe Marler calling Wales prop Samson Lee “gypsy boy”.

The world governing body intervened last week when Six Nations chiefs opted not to sanction Marler for an offence that carries a minimum four-week ban, freeing him to help England complete the Grand Slam.

Ritchie still backs that decision, arguing that what amounted to a verbal reprimand was sufficient for comments that he deems “inappropriate” rather than racist.

He also defended the culture under Jones, whose appointment as captain of serial offender Dylan Hartley was in contrast to the hard-line stance adopted by Lancaster, yet has so far been vindicated.

“The same sort of standards – hard work, commitment from the players, appropriate behaviour – I think are as strong in Eddie as they were in Stuart. I don’t see a difference to that,” Ritchie said.

“If there’s inappropriate behaviour Eddie will be down on it like a ton of bricks. I think their responsibilities were very clear under Stuart; they’re very clear under Eddie. I don’t think those values or responsibilities have changed.”

World Rugby could yet punish Marler, despite Six Nations chiefs decreeing last week that the matter be closed since Marler had spoken “in the heat of the moment” and offered a quick apology.

Ritchie, who said England players were not routinely issued with a formal code of conduct, reiterated his condemnation of Marler’s remarks but stressed they did not amount to racism.

“I think inappropriate is the right phrase to me,” he added. “I’ve seen the quotes from Samson Lee as to how he saw it, and I think it’s important how the recipient – if I can put it that way – receives it.

“So I think it was inappropriate. I think we’ve made it very clear: this is not the sort of comment that we want to see. But I think Joe understand that. It’s been very forcibly made to him that’s the case. Everybody is aware of that and I think that’s the way that it should be left.”

Marler’s clash with Lee came during the first half of England’s 25-21 victory against Wales at Twickenham earlier this month, which effectively clinched a first Six Nations title since 2011. Jones’s team completed a first Grand Slam for 13 years by beating France 31-21 in Paris on Saturday.