Gatland plays down 'gypsy boy' controversy

WARREN Gatland has played down the incident that saw England prop Joe Marler cited for shouting “gypsy boy” at opposite number Samson Lee.
Marler has been subjected to intense criticism since Saturday’s test match, with many onlookers calling for the Harlequins prop to be given a lengthy ban.
However Welsh coach Gatland has played down the incident calling it ‘banter’.
He said: “It was just a bit of banter as far as I’m concerned. Joe’s said look it was only a bit of fun.
“He said to him (Samson) at half time and Samson said he has no issues it’s just banter on the rugby field.
“15-20 years ago those things were sorted out with fists. I think we don’t want to make a massive issue of it, we just want to put it to bed. I was more concerned with the forearm.
“I think it’s not just sport it’s in every aspect of life where people get so PC and they just make a massive issue about things.
“It was just one of those things a little bit of banter, we’ve accepted that, and accepted his apology and just moved on. It’s not an issue for us.”
Gatland was also quick to defend prop Tomas Francis, who has been banned for eight weeks after gouging Leicester prop Dan Cole.
“When you play it in real time the contact with the hand with the eye is a third of a second,” argued Gatland.
“It doesn’t look to me as if he’s gone specifically for someone.
“He’s closed his eyes, his heads in a different position, he’s tried to clear Kruis from the top of Cole.
“I saw it in slow motion and I thought that doesn’t look good, that was my initial reaction, and I gave you an honest answer after the match.
“But having looked at some of the other views, and looking at it in real time those are questions you can ask about was it deliberate.
“Normally if you’re going to grab someone’s face, or go for someone’s eye it’s going to be more than a third of a second.”
Last Saturday’s defeat has come as a major blow to Warren Gatland’s squad, with a lack of emotion and intensity in their game at the top of the post-match inquest.
“I was a little bit disappointed with the emotion and what I meant by that is when you play at this level, it’s about the emotional edge,” said the 2013 British Lions coach.
“Those things when you’ve been involved in the game are measurable.
“What I mean by that is that you can look line speed defensively, you look at kick chase, you look at getting back when the opposition have kicked.
“You look at the intent of running the first five metres, how quickly they get off the ground.
“Those are things that are all measurable at this level.
“Sometimes if you’re just a couple of per-cent off that at the very highest level it has an impact.
“We were just some percentage points off that in the first half against England, and we improved significantly in the second half.
“I think we went from one stage at 20 odd minutes in that first half where England had 70% of territory and possession, but by the end of the game it was 50/50.
“Our second half performance was a hell of a lot better, we finished strongly.”
The former Waikato hooker has made four changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the Italians.
Fit again scrum-half Rhys Webb replaces Scarlets nine Gareth Davies, while Hallam Amos gets his opportunity on the wing in place of Alex Cuthbert.
Elsewhere, Luke Charteris replaces the injured Alun-Wyn Jones, and Justin Tipuric naturally replaces Sam Warburton who is out with concussion.
On the bench, Gloucester loose-forward Ross Moriarty comes in, along with Scarlets lock Jake Ball and Ospreys prop Aaron Jarvis.
Gatland said: “Three of those changes were forced on us. We wanted to give some players an opportunity, but also show some faith and give the players a chance to put behind them a disappointing first half last week.”