Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has apologised to “the very small minority of people” who were offended by his joke during England’s 33-30 win over the Dragons yesterday.
Joe Marler left fans in stitches during England’s Six Nations victory at Twickenham, with the English prop spotted on camera grabbing the crotch of Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones – who appeared baffled and furious in equal measure.
And when ITV discussed the incident at half-time, pundit Thomas – who publicly came out as gay back in 2009 – gave his verdict.
The 45-year-old quipped: “It would’ve never happened in my day and I’m really upset about that – because if it had I would have never retired!”
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Plenty of fans saw the funny side of Thomas’ joke on Twitter, but not everyone was left amused.
One user posted: “Disappointing reaction from Gareth Thomas, what could have been a learning moment or even a debate about behaviour on the pitch has now been laughed off as if that was appropriate behaviour in any space. Really weird. #ENGvWAL”.
Another said: “I don't know what's worse Joe Marler pinching(?) Alun Wyn Jones's c**k or Gareth Thomas saying that he wouldn't have retired if there'd been more of that in his day”.
Former Rugby union star Andy Goode also condemned Thomas, writing: “Imagine if someone touched another man or woman up in the workplace and then someone joked about it on TV.
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“People have admiration for Gareth Thomas with what he’s been through and opened up about but I wonder if something similar was done in a homophobic way he’d joke about it?”
Others were left in stitches by Thomas’ line, with one tweeting: “That Gareth Thomas line might've been the best thing I've ever heard from a rugby pundit.”
While another said: "Gareth Thomas just did the best bit of punditry in sports history".
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In light of the controversy, though, Thomas has taken to Twitter to justify his comments.
“To the VERY small minority of people who were offended by my comment yesterday I apologise,” he said.
“I tried to find humour in a situation-that doesn’t mean I condone it, it means I wanted it to not be an issue.
“So don’t change the narrative to justify how you feel. Be kind.”
Wyn Jones has called for World Rugby to take action against Marler, saying: "I have won 138 Tests for my country, but if I react I get a red card so it's tough."
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