Joe Marler has admitted his regret over an incident with Alun Wyn Jones which saw him grab the groin area of the Welsh captain during their Six Nations meeting in March.
Although no action was taken during the game, the England prop was subsequently banned for 10 weeks after the disciplinary committee judged that he “had committed an act of foul play (an infringement of Law 9.27) and that it had warranted a red card”.
However, because of the hiatus in rugby due to COVID-19, Marler’s game-time was unaffected by the ban.
Speaking on the Virtual Rugby Show, the 29-year-old admitted that his actions were “inappropriate” however he did not accept that they were an act of sexual assault.
“We spoke when the huge storm was going off, then.
“I understood his position as a 140-odd capped international with some heavy gravitas in the game, the position he holds and the pressure he can sometimes be put under.
“What I did was inappropriate and wrong on that stage. The people that came out and compared it to sexual assault in the workplace completely blew my mind but I did stop for a second and take on their opinions and how they were made to feel about it all.
“They are completely entitled to their opinion and I respect that. However, I didn’t sexually assault someone in the workplace. I tickled someone’s knob as a laugh, who I’d known for several years now, on the wrong stage, really.
“I should have probably waited for there not to be cameras around but it was a bit of a brain fart.”
Though he shook hands with Marler after the game, Jones spoke of his discomfort at the situation he was put in and asked that TMO’s have more influence to review such incidents.
“I’ve played 138 tests for my country and if I react I get a red card. It’s tough, isn’t it? Hopefully World Rugby takes a look at it. Joe’s a good bloke. Lots of things happen on a rugby field.
“It’s difficult as a captain these days it feels like as a captain you can’t speak to a referee about anything. I had a look at the touch judge and he obviously didn’t see what happened which is fine.
“There’s a lot of footage that has been shown. It seems there’s a lot of supporters that saw what happened. It’s very frustrating. We talk a lot about TMOs and reviewing footage and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of it happening.”