The coach of Leeds Rhinos rugby team has jumped to the defence of a player who has accepted a five-game ban after calling a player a “faggot”.

Leeds rugby player Zak Hardaker today said he will not appeal a 5-match ban he was handed by the RFL, after calling a referee a “fucking faggot”.

The Leeds Rhinos player, 22 was thought to have made the comments to referee James Child, during the team’s match against their match against Warrington two weeks ago.

Now the team’s coach Brian McDermott has jumped to the defence of Hardaker, claiming that homophobia does not exist in rugby league.

The former Great Britain international spoke at a weekly press conference on Wednesday, and said:  “From the outset, our club has always had a stance against any form of discrimination.

“We actually had a week designated to the Lesbian, Gay and Trans-gender organisation and Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins were the cover boys on that.

“Zak fully accepts the punishment that’s been handed out to him. From the outset, he’s shown remorse and realised the error of his ways.

“But he’s really upset that he’s getting accused of being homophobic. He’s been found guilty of using offensive language and causing offence.

“To inaccurately tar a young man with that is irresponsible.”

The disciplinary tribunal at the RFL found that Hardaker was not homophobic, but ruled that the comments were made, and that the language was offensive.

McDermott continued: “It’s a tough week for Zak and it will continue to be a tough week… He’s getting hammered from everybody for two words that he shouted out.

“I’m not defending it but you’ve got to have a balanced opinion of this.

“Zak will pull through. He’s in the form of his life and that’s because he’s been doing the right things, both off the field and on the field.

“He’s a young honest man. At times he’s a young silly man but he is only 22. He’d be something our game should be proud of at the moment. Leeds are certainly proud to have him in the team and I’m sure he will react to this in the right way.

“It’s a shame that the whole game has been brought into question. But one of the positives is whole game’s response. We haven’t tried to sweep it under the carpet, we’ve been very transparent with how we’ve dealt with it. What is has proved is that there is absolutely no homophobia in our sport.”

Hardaker will not play until mid-July, but is expected to attend the England training camp this weekend in Loughborough.