England captain Courtney Lawes believes anyone found to have been the source of the racism directed at Luther Burrell should be exposed.
Burrell revealed in a newspaper interview with the Mail on Sunday he had been racially abused by his rugby teammates, including receiving comments about bananas, fried chicken and slavery.
Newcastle, his most recent club, are investigating to determine whether the incidents outlined by the former England centre took place during his two years at Kingston Park, while the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby have apologised.
Lawes is friends with Burrell – the pair have been teammates at Northampton and with England – and while he has not encountered racism in the same way, he insists it must be rooted out wherever it surfaces.
“I had a problem with him saying that racism is rife in rugby,” said Lawes on the eve of Saturday’s first Test against Australia in Perth.
“If I’m honest, that’s not been my experience. But if that kind of stuff is going on in certain clubs, it needs to be addressed.
“I read the article and I was shocked about the stuff that’s been said to Luther because at most clubs – knowing the boys from different clubs who come into the England camp – it just wouldn’t be accepted. It’s not even a joke, it’s way beyond that.
“I’m feeling for him and I’m not sure what’s going on up there, but it’s absolutely not acceptable.
“I agree with Ellis Genge (England rugby player) – I think the person or people who are doing that need to be outed, because it’s just not acceptable in our game.”
“We want rugby to be the best version of rugby it can be. That’s why I was surprised that at any club, any colour of player would accept that kind of behaviour.
“It’s tough because Luther’s a close friend of mine, but I was disappointed that he didn’t call it out at the time.
“Being the player he is, 35 and a senior guy, he should have been addressing that but he knows that. But I feel for him so I’ll send him a message and see what he’s up to.”
England enter Saturday’s series opener against the Wallabies as underdogs to secure a ninth successive victory in the fixture.