The podcast was recorded shortly after Marcus Smith was called up by the Lions as cover for Finn Russell


The British & Irish Lions have lodged a formal complaint after former Ireland forward Neil Francis described Marcus Smith as having “an Oompa-Loompa tan”.

Harlequins have also expressed their “disgust” over the slur against their fly-half, who was born in the Philippines to a British father and a Filipina mother.

Player-turned-pundit Francis, who won 35 caps for Ireland, made the comment during an episode of the Irish Independent’s Left Wing podcast while discussing Smith’s prospects of starting the Lions’ Test series against South Africa.

“They couldn’t throw him in,” said Francis, in a segment since edited out of the podcast but which has been circulated widely on social media. “A Harlequins out-half with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa-Loompa tan, I don’t think they could.”

A Lions spokesman said: “We find the remarks offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction.”

A statement from Smith’s club read: “Harlequins is disgusted by offensive comments made by an columnist regarding Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith and await a reply regarding the matter.”

The podcast was recorded shortly after Smith, 22, was called up by the Lions as cover for Finn Russell.

He subsequently starred on his debut against the Stormers but was left out of the squad for Saturday’s first Test in Cape Town.

Neil Francis won 36 caps for Ireland before moving into the media


Francis’s comments were not the first time the 57-year-old has courted controversy.

In 2018, Ireland’s Press Ombudsman ruled that Francis was being “provocative” but not racist when he described the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” in a column on the Irish Independent’s website.

Four years earlier, Francis said in an interview on Newstalk radio: “If you’ve ever sat down with, you know, homosexual people, and asked them what their interests are, very often they have no interest in any kind of sport. That’s my experience from sitting down with them; I’ve done it on a regular basis.”