Harlequins 'disgusted' by comments made about Marcus Smith
The remarks in question were made by former Ireland second-row Neil Francis during the popular Left Wing podcast, hosted by Luke Fitzgerald. Smith, who is of mixed Filipino and British heritage, recently flew out to South Africa as injury cover for Finn Russell and could yet play a role in the Test series.
The panel were discussing the merits of Smith potentially being involved in the Test series and the typically outspoken Francis was asked to give his opinion on the matter.
“I don’t think they could throw him in,” said Francis. “A Harlequins outhalf with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan… you just couldn’t throw him in.”
The comments have been heavily criticised on social media today, with many on Twitter accusing Francis of racism, although it’s not clear that the former forward was aware of Smith’s mixed-race heritage.
SACKED: Former Ireland second row Neil Francis has been fired over comments he made about the England flyhalf. https://t.co/9g0ZOOVrdG
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 23, 2021
Both Harlequins and the Lions have publically stated that they’ve contacted the newspaper over the comments. “Harlequins is disgusted by offensive comments made by an Independent.ie columnist regarding Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith and await a reply regarding the matter,” said a Harlequins spokesperson today.
Tim Percival, spokesperson for the British & Irish Lions, Tweeted: “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
England winger Joe Cokanasiga tweeted: “Oompa loompa tan” ???!! Idiot”
“Oompa loompa tan” ???!! Idiot https://t.co/vqsC0GNrs9
— RJC (@J_cokanasiga) July 23, 2021
Smith, who was born in Manila, won his first England cap against the USA two weeks ago and has been enjoying a stellar season with Harlequins, guiding the club to their first Gallagher Premiership title since 2012.
“I’ve been following him closely for the past 12 months and I’ve been impressed with how well he’s matured as a player,” said Lions head coach Warren Gatland when calling up Smith. “Finn and Marcus are similar in that they like to play with a bit of freedom, so, for me, it’s as close to a like-for-like cover as we can get. We look forward to welcoming him to the group in Cape Town.”
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