Joel Tomkins (centre) has been given an eight-match ban

Credit: PA

Joel Tomkins, the Catalans Dragons forward, insists his conscience is clear after he was given an eight-match ban for making “inappropriate” contact with Leeds full-back Richie Myler.

The former Wigan and England back-rower was found guilty of a charge of “other contrary behaviour” after television footage appeared to show him putting his finger between Myler’s buttocks during a tackle in the Super League play-off win over Leeds last Friday.

Tomkins told a disciplinary hearing his reputation would be forever damaged by the accusation and he feared his career could be ended by the stigma caused by it, but he was found guilty by a Rugby Football League operational rules tribunal.

A panel spokesman said: “We are satisfied, in fact we are sure, that this incident occurred and that Mr Tomkins placed his finger or fingers between Mr Myler’s buttocks touching his anus.

TV footage appeared to show Joel Tomkins putting his finger between Richie Myler's buttocks

Credit: SKY SPORTS

“This was not for any sexual gratification but to annoy and irritate his opponent and was a decision he took in the heat of the moment and we accept he instantly denied and regretted.”

In a statement, Tomkins, 33, insists the contact was “unintended” and he feels “mortified” about the public shaming caused by the guilty verdict.

“I’m mortified I’ve been found guilty of this charge,” he said. “My conscience is completely clear on this – there is absolutely no way I would ever attempt to do what I’ve been accused of.

“I’m not denying my hand ends up on Richie Myler’s backside but it was completely unintended. I’ve been playing the game for 16 years and it’s not something that would cross my mind or any player’s mind.

“It’s a serious allegation and for someone to accuse you of it, they should have to be certain you intended to do it.”

According to the minutes of the hearing, Myler was reluctant to repeat the allegation but was adamant that what he said to referee Chris Kendall at the time of the offence was true.

The French club engaged the services of Leeds-based sports lawyer Richard Cramer and Jonathan Crystal QC to fight the case.

Tomkins says he felt the matter had been settled after speaking to Myler after the match and was shocked to be told of the charge.

“Clearly he’d felt something, I do understand that – but he said he knew I wouldn’t have done it intentionally and didn’t think I’d be cited for it,” he said.

“We had a chat and I left the ground thinking that would be the end of the issue. So I was absolutely staggered when I was charged on Monday evening after Leeds had informed the RFL that Richie Myler stood by his on-field allegations.

“I’ve made thousands and thousands of tackles over the years, without ever being accused of anything like this. I hope people can believe it was completely accidental.”

Tomkins will sit out the Dragons’ semi-final against St Helens on Friday and accepts that he will also miss a chunk of matches at the start of the 2021 season.

“I’m not going to appeal because, frankly, after this I’ve no faith in their system,” he said. “I feel the damage has been done to my reputation and I’ve known other players appeal in the past and have suspensions extended.

“But I feel an injustice has been done here and I couldn’t let this go without letting people know that what I’ve been accused of was, hand on heart, not intentional.”

Meanwhile, organisers of the 2021 World Cup have revealed that 70 per cent of applications in a ballot have come from people new to the game. Tickets have been bought from 32 countries across five continents, including emerging markets in Brazil and Jamaica, while domestically feedback shows fans with a London postcode applied for the most tickets.