Neil Francis sacked over Marcus Smith comments after Lions complaint

The Lions and Harlequins have both responded angrily to a comment about the colour of Marcus Smith’s skin made by a former Ireland international forward.

Neil Francis referred to the fly-half, who was born in the Philippines, as having a “David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan” during an edition of the Left Wing podcast.

Francis was subsequently sacked as a columnist by the Irish Independent and following criticism on social media after the clip was widely circulated, despite being edited out of the podcast episode.

“We find the remarks offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction,” a Lions spokesperson said prior to Francis’s sacking. Smith’s club Harlequins also said they were “disgusted by the offensive comments” regarding the 22‑year‑old who has joined the Lions squad in South Africa as cover for the injured Finn Russell.

Smith, who is of Filipino and British heritage, made an impressive first appearance for the Lions against the Stormers last weekend but is not involved in the matchday 23 for this weekend’s first Test. Born in Manila, he made his England debut against USA this month having also helped to guide Harlequins to their first Premiership title in nine years.

Francis, 57, played 36 Tests for Ireland between 1987 and 1996.