Gatland: ‘I apologise for any offence’

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has explained the reasoning behind his recent response to Joe Marler's "gypsy boy" comments.

The remarks involving England prop Joe Marler and his Welsh counterpart Samson Lee.

In an official release made by the WRU on Wednesday, Gatland has stated that he does not support racism.

“I don't condone racism of any kind. I apologise for any offence my use of the word banter may have caused," Gatland said.

"My intention was to take the focus away from Samson, a private individual, and enable him and the rest of squad to prepare for the final game of the championship. 

"My comments were made following a discussion with Samson about the incident. He believed Joe made his comment in the heat of the moment, he later regretted it and apologised, but Samson believes it wasn't racist in intent and he accepted Joe's apology.

"While we await the findings of the Six Nations investigation into this incident it would be inappropriate for me, Samson or the team to comment further on this matter.”

Wales Rugby has supported this statement by saying that it does not reinforce racial slurring.

“The WRU does not condone racism of any kind. The incident is being investigated by Six Nations and we would welcome a definitive and speedy conclusion to their investigation.

"The WRU recognises that Warren’s overriding intention was to protect Samson by playing down the incident and that his comments were made following a thorough consultation with Samson and with his support.”

Lee has come out in support of the coach's statement and confirmed that Marler's remarks were in the 'heat of the moment' and that he welcomes the apology.

“I would like to explain my point of view. I stand beside Warren," Lee said.

"I personally believe the comments to have been intended as banter and accepted Joe's apology on Saturday.

"Warren is fiercely protective of the team and his comments were made based on conversations with me and with the intention of deflecting attention away from me.”