The British and Irish Lions and Harlequins have both criticised former Ireland international Neil Francis’ “offensive” description of fly-half Marcus Smith.
Francis, 57, made a comment about Smith’s skin colour in an episode of the Irish Independent’s Left Wing podcast, which was published on 14 July but drew attention on social media this week.
“We find the remarks relating to Marcus Smith offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction,” said the Lions.
Harlequins, who have also written to the newspaper, said they were “disgusted” by the “racist” comments made by Francis.
Francis said: “I would never intentionally or wilfully make a comment to disparage somebody on the basis of the colour of anyone’s skin. Never! The comments have been interpreted differently from what I intended and I apologise sincerely for that.
“I fully apologise for any offence taken by the player and his family. I intend to apologise directly to him shortly if he is agreeable. I also apologise to anyone who also took offence to what I said.”
Former Quins player Ugo Monye, the ex-Lions and England wing, added on Twitter: “The fact Neil Francis said what he did is appalling, but to publish it and no-one challenge him is as equally appalling.”
Publisher Mediahuis Ireland said: “We acknowledge that Mr Francis says his comments were inadvertent but we have decided to end our relationship with him and he will no longer write columns or contribute to our podcasts.”
Smith, 22, was born in the Philippines to a British father and a Filipina mother, and moved to England when he was 13.
He made his debut for England earlier this month, before being called out to South Africa by the Lions as fly-half cover.
He made an impressive first appearance for the touring side in their 49-3 win over the Stormers but has not been included in the matchday 23 for the first Test against the Springboks on Saturday.