A Welsh rugby star and national teammate of Gareth Thomas apologised yesterday for making an off-colour gay joke on his Twitter account.

Jonathan Thomas, 27, made the remark in reply to Ian Evans, one of his team-mates at the Welsh club Ospreys, the Independent reports.

When Evans wrote about a training session: “Legs and ass are in bits, can’t move.” Thomas replied: “U gotta stop hanging round with Nigel Owens!”

Nigel Owens is the Welsh referee who came out in 2007. He revealed in an autobiography that he had once attempted suicide over his sexual orientation and had suffered discrimination.

Following the exchange, Evans made a brief apology on behalf of Thomas, saying: “For those ppl who got the wrong end of the stick… it was from our savage training day yesterday, sorry about my friend fellow ppl.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the remarks were “unacceptable” and added: “Many of us expected and hoped that [Gareth Thomas coming out] was a turning point and that Welsh rugby could kiss goodbye to homophobia. Sadly, Jonathan’s proved us wrong.”

But Mr Owens said: “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.”

He added that he considered Jonathan Thomas a good friend and that the matter was now closed.

Thomas issued an apology last night, saying: “Nigel is a great friend of mine and there is absolutely no way I would say anything to him or about him publicly – or indeed privately – which I thought he would find personally offensive.

“There is no malicious intent in this message whatsoever. This was some childish banter between friends and I did not think for a moment that there may be other people out there reading it and/or taking it in the wrong way.

“I made a very silly comment to something else that was written, but nevertheless, I would like to apologise to anyone who is or was offended by it. I have spoken to Nigel this afternoon and, as I knew at the time of writing, he is not offended and he remains a very good friend.

“I have now removed the offending comment and will be much more conscious of distinguishing between private jokes and what can be said in a public forum in future.”