Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Gay rugby ref Nigel Owens laughs off Twitter banter

International rugby referee Nigel Owens
Nigel Owens said there was "no issue" between himself and Jonathan Thomas

Gay rugby referee Nigel Owens says a comment about his sexuality by Welsh international Jonathan Thomas on Twitter was "just banter."

The Welsh Rugby Union confirmed the player has been forced to apologise, but said it would not comment further on a matter that is now "closed".

Mr Owens, from Carmarthenshire, says Thomas is a good friend and the website comment was taken out of context.

The referee said people were "sometimes losing their sense of humour".

The remark, which has since been removed from the site, was made by Thomas during an exchange on Twitter with Ian Evans, one of his team-mates at the Swansea-based club the Ospreys.

Peter Tatchell, the campaigner for gay rights, described the comment as "unacceptable," according to The Independent.

Jonathan Thomas
I have no issues with people pulling my leg like that, they are good friends of mine
Nigel Owens on the comments by Jonathan Thomas, pictured

The newspaper reported that Thomas, who has 51 caps and is set to play in the second row against Scotland in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Saturday, was "forced" to apologise after it contacted the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

But the WRU told BBC Wales while the report was accurate it had no comment to make as it considered the matter closed.

Mr Owens said: "I am very good friends with Jon Thomas and Ian Evans.

"It's just banter, it's been taken totally out of context, I think people are sometimes losing their sense of humour.

"I am disappointed that some people cannot see the humour in what people say.

"It [was] meant as humour and I have no issues with people pulling my leg like that, they are good friends of mine.

"I think people are trying to make a issue where there isn't one."

Mr Owens said that Thomas had called him and there were "no issues between them at all."

Former Wales and Lions rugby captain Gareth Thomas, who came out as gay in December, commented on Mr Owens on Twitter.

"Nigel Owens is a good guy and one of the boys when it comes to banter," he wrote.

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