London- The Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Thursday announced an investigation into reports referee Nigel Owens was subjected to homophobic abuse by supporters during England's game with New Zealand last weekend.
The Welsh official, who is openly gay, is reported to have been targeted by fans during England's 24-21 loss to the All Blacks at Twickenham.
"We take any allegations of any abuse very seriously and are investigating this matter," said an RFU spokesperson.
"The RFU condemns all forms of discrimination and aims to ensure that all people, irrespective of their age, gender, ability, race, religion, ethnic origin, creed, colour, nationality, social status or sexual orientation, have a genuine and equal opportunity to enjoy rugby union in whatever form, on or off the pitch, at all levels and in all roles."
The matter first came to light when a spectator wrote a letter to British newspaper The Guardian in which he accused a group of male fans of "hurling ... nasty, foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic abuse" at Owens.
Owens, who is one of the sport's most high-profile referees, has called for supporters to be issued with stadium bans if allegations of homophobic abuse are proven.
"If someone has gone to the trouble to send a letter to the paper and say that this was disgusting and the behaviour was totally out of order, then I would think what they shouted was pretty bad and if that is the case then these people should be banned from the game," he told The Daily Telegraph.
"They need to be told that some behaviour is not acceptable, that crossing the line of what is humour and banter is a fine line, but if you cross it then you have to put up with the consequences."
England head coach Stuart Lancaster gave his backing to the investigation.
"We've worked hard in rugby to get the core values of the sport ingrained in the team and in rugby in general, so there's no place for it whatsoever," he told a press conference.
"I applaud the stance and the investigation, absolutely."