A RUGBY star has said he was wrong to grab another player’s genitals during a pivotal Six Nations clash.

Former Sussex schoolboy Joe Marler was slapped with a ten-week ban for “grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals” of Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones in March.

But because the coronavirus crisis interrupted the rugby season, the England international will be able to restart his career with London club Harlequins without missing any games.

Despite avoiding the punishment, Marler has now admitted his actions were “inappropriate and wrong on that stage”.

But he argued the incident was not as severe as some people had claimed.

In an interview on The Virtual Rugby Show, he said: “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 k***, as a laugh, who I’d known for several years now, on the wrong stage, really.”

The incident came as England edged out Wales 33-30 in a tight-fought Six Nations game on March 7.

The competition was postponed shortly afterwards as the UK was plunged into lockdown in a bid to contain coronavirus, with mass gatherings such as international sporting events seen as high-risk areas in which infection could spread.

Marler’s ban was decided on March 13 by an independent citing commissioner at a disciplinary hearing in Dublin.

The shortest ban under World Rugby rules for “grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals” is 12 weeks, though the commission reduced that by three weeks to take account of mitigating factors, including good character and remorse.

However, they also increased the ban by one week after taking into account Marler’s disciplinary record in the months leading up to the incident.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac was one of those to condemn Marler’s actions at the time.

He said: “There’s no place for that in the game. We’re all role models for the young players and the next generation of the game and there are rules in the game. You can’t go outside those rules. If you do, then you face punishment.”

But Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard says it received a disproportionate amount of media attention compared with other incidents which he believes are more serious.