The British and Irish Lions have expressed their “deep dissatisfaction” with comments made by former Ireland international Neil Francis about Marcus Smith.
Harlequins and England fly-half Smith joined the Lions in South Africa as an injury-call up last week, and made his first appearance for the touring side in last Saturday’s game against the Stormers.
Francis was speaking on the Irish Independent’s The Left Wing podcast shortly after Smith was originally called up and made offensive comments regarding the 22-year-old’s appearance.
Harlequins have also released a statement on the matter and criticised Francis for his ‘racist comments’.
Neil Francis & Marcus Smith.
“No, they couldn’t throw him in,” Francis replied when asked if Smith is in with a chance of playing in a test match against the Springboks.
“A Harlequins out-half with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan – you just couldn’t throw him in.”
Bad business these days pic.twitter.com/Ak9fxijLNU
— Shane Cooke (@wordmud) July 22, 2021
The Lions and Joe Cokanasiga call out Neil Francis.
The section referred to has now been removed from the podcast, but can be heard in the clip shared by Twitter user Shane Cooke above.
England international Joe Cokanasiga called Francis an “idiot” on Twitter over his comments about Smith, who was born in the Philippines to a Filipino mother and a British father.
The Lions head of communications Tim Percival also took to Twitter to express the side’s dissatisfaction about the comments.
“We find the remarks relating to Marcus Smith offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction.”
.We find the remarks relating to Marcus Smith offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction.
— Tim Percival (@TimPercival) July 23, 2021
Smith’s club Harlequins have also released a statement on the comments made by Francis. It reads:
“Harlequins is disgusted by racist comments made by Independent.ie columnist Neil Francis on the publication’s rugby podcast, The Left Wing, on July 14 about Harlequins, England, and British and Irish Lions fly-half Marcus Smith.
“The Club firmly believes that there is no room for racism in any part of society, let alone professional sport. Harlequins await a written reply from The Independent.ie regarding this matter.”
Francis has yet to respond to the statement.
Marcus Smith’s rapid rise in rugby.
Smith has experienced a breakthrough season, as he won the Gallagher Premiership with Harlequins, made his first appearance for England and earned a Lions call-up in the space of a few weeks.
The youngster was very impressive in his first game in Lions colours against the Stormers last Saturday and made two excellent line breaks late on in the game.
The Harlequins fly-half will not feature for the Lions in the first test against the Springboks, but he can be very pleased with earning a call-up to the tourists’ squad ahead of seasoned internationals such as Johnny Sexton and George Ford.