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'Cockers has been giving me the eyes of, 'Any danger this week?'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Loosehead Joe Marler has explained he has been busy on the England training ground at Pennyhill Park this week to ensure he won’t ever again make a disastrous emergency lineout throw while part of the Eddie Jones set-up. With hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie sin-binned, play continued at Murrayfield last Saturday with Jones opting not to bring on sub hooker Jamie George and sacrifice a back-rower. 

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This decision resulted in prop Marler taking on the throwing duty at a lineout inside the England 22 with the game level at 17-all. The 31-year-old made a mess of his throw, delaying the release of the ball from his hands, and it led to the catcher, Alex Dombrandt, crossing the five-metre line and being too close to Marler when catching the ball.

It resulted in Scotland being awarded a free-kick, which they opted to pack down with, and they went on to win a penalty at the scrum which Finn Russell successfully kicked to shunt Scotland into a 20-17 lead that England were then unable to reel back in and it left them beaten in their opening round Guinness Six Nations game. 

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Asked on Wednesday afternoon at an England media briefing if he was now busy practising his throwing on the training ground in case an emergency such as last Saturday’s incident ever arose again, Marler humorously replied: “Ya bastard. Yes, I have been practising every day. Cockers [Richard Cockerill] has been giving me the eyes of ‘right alright, any danger this week?’ And I was, ‘right, okay, fine’.” 

Marler explained why he had been nominated as the emergency England thrower with no specialist hooker on the field of play. “It goes to the nominated person to do that role,” he said. “I just didn’t throw it at the right time. 

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“I should have thrown it earlier at Dombrandt. Unfortunately, I throw it later and he kept running past the five-metre with the eyes of ‘mate, why are you not throwing the ball at me?’ And I went, ‘I don’t know, I feel like Eminem in 8 Mile when he chokes on stage with his rap’. That is how I felt.”

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Marler also revealed that it was his second time ever throwing into a lineout in his 75-cap Test career with England. “Unfortunately, my international record is now down to 50 per cent because it was at 100 per cent,” he quipped. 

“In my third ever Test against South Africa away in 2012 Dylan Hartley got sin-binned, I threw it to Geoff Parling in the pod, he won the ball. I had a 100 per cent throwing record. Unfortunately, it is down to 50 per cent and now I can’t be really smug with Joe Gray at Harlequins saying I have a better throw record than him. That was the last time.”    

The reason why England had Cowan-Dickie sin-binned last weekend in Edinburgh was because he had illegally batted the ball into touch following a crosskick, an error that saw him yellow-carded and Scotland awarded a score-levelling penalty try.

Cowan-Dickie took to Twitter in the aftermath to apologise and it drew a response from Marler who jokingly called his front-rower colleague ‘a helmet’ for ruining his 100 per cent throwing record at Test level.  

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Marler’s tongue-in-cheek message was accompanied by a heart emoji and he has reported that Cowan-Dickie has bounced back on the training ground this week. “He has been good. Everyone has got different ways of wanting to deal with it

“I was like, ‘Mate, I don’t think you need to apologise like that’. But he felt the need that he did. He is a very emotional guy and he took a little bit of time to wallow in it and think about what he could have done better, but he has been back on the paddock training, getting stuck into the next one and being his chirpy self which is good to see.”

Reflecting on the general nature of the three-point loss to Scotland, Marler added: “I was very disappointed with losing as close as we did. It was disappointing and I don’t feel overly great about it, but I am looking forward to tucking in this week and hopefully picking up the learnings of that last 20 minutes.”

What were those learnings? “Probably throw a little bit further than three-and-a-half metres. Probably do some throwing work this week or just pick someone else to do it. And also we have had chats today [Wednesday] about what we could have potentially done better in those situations but again hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“We could go, we should have done that and we should have done that but in the heat of the moment we didn’t get that right so hopefully now we have had the conversations, if we are in the heat of the moment of those situations again we can get it right.”

Marler was delayed joining up with the England squad ahead of their round one opener, missing the training week in Brighton after he tested positive for covid for the second time in eleven weeks. “I didn’t get away with any mid-afternoon naps in my house,” he said about his period of isolation at home on this occasion. 

“My missus took it as a very good opportunity of, ‘you’re home now, cool. There is baby one, there is baby two’. The first time I struggled, I probably underestimated it a little bit back in the autumn. Chest was struggling for a little while after that but this time back in Brighton, I think from the testing it might have been the omicron variant and it is well known that it is slightly milder and I didn’t suffer as much.”

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