London - England prop Joe Marler has been the victim of an "excruciating media witch hunt" over his "gypsy boy" slur, players' union the Rugby Players' Association (RPA) said on Tuesday.
Harlequins player Marler faces a misconduct hearing on April 5 after verbally abusing Welsh counterpart Samson Lee during England's 25-21 win over Wales in the Six Nations earlier this month.
Six Nations organisers declined to punish Marler, despite his admission of guilt, which prompted global governing body World Rugby to send his case before an independent judicial committee, and the RPA feels that the 25-year-old has been unfairly treated.
"As people throughout the game know, Joe is no racist," said RPA chief executive Damian Hopley in a strongly worded statement.
"He made a comment when provoked and is now being hung out to dry in this excruciating media witch hunt whilst World Rugby have intervened against the RFU (Rugby Football Union) and the Six Nations.
"To put Joe in this position after he apologised to the opposition player, admitted his error of judgement and also received a severe rebuke from the RFU and the tournament smacks of double jeopardy."
Hopley added: "We will be watching the ensuing process extremely carefully, but the thought of World Rugby calling for yet another hearing and therefore prolonging this episode defies belief."
RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said that the Six Nations organisers' probe should have been the "end of the matter".
But Wales voiced concerns that Marler had escaped punishment for a comment they consider racist.
Under World Rugby codes, verbal abuse of a player based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation carries an entry-point sanction of a four-week ban.