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'His durability is outstanding': How Harlequins have reaped the huge benefit of Joe Marler's England no-show

By Liam Heagney

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When the RFU conducts its review of the abysmal Guinness Six Nations championship, one factor under consideration is going to be the Covid bubble restrictions and whether they were too severe. The restrictions did for Joe Marler as an England player in 2021. 

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Although chosen in the original 28-man squad on January 22, the 72-cap prop decided that the lack of movement in and out of camp wasn’t for him given his busy family situation, three children and another one on the way.  

By January 25, it was made public that Marler was dropping out of the England squad and he went with the blessing of Eddie Jones who said at the time, “Joe has made a decision that we 100 per cent support.

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All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick talks about Eddie Jones’ struggling England team

“When he decides to make himself available again we will have another look at selection. And that’s how we look at it – 100 per cent. No ifs or buts, it’s as clear as day. There will be some time in the future when he is ready to come back and will get selected. We will take that when it comes.”

The irony about what subsequently unfolded was that while England struggled for pack momentum, an issue visible in how outplayed Mako Vunipola and Ellis Genge both were in Dublin last Saturday in the final round of an awkward championship, Marler has been enjoying a rich vein of form back at Harlequins. 

England’s loss was very much his club’s gain, Marler reeling off eight appearances, seven straight starts, 537 minutes of action in a run where Quins have reaped six wins and leapt up to third place on the table despite losing head of rugby Paul Gustard in January. Assistant coach Adam Jones has been thrilled with watching the loosehead, who turns 31 in July, hit top form at a time of the year when he usually unavailable to Harlequins and busy with England.

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“If you any team in the Premiership if they want a Six Nations block with Joe Marler in their team, then you’d want him. For me, he is one of the top five scrummagers in world rugby, not even Premiership. He is outstanding, an outstanding scrummaging loosehead. 

“You align that with getting Matt Symons back fit and Wilco Louw finding his feet now in the Premiership, the different ways the scrum is up here, Marler has been massive and it’s been good to have him in. He can be an interesting character but he has been fantastic and we were glad to have him and he is rubbing off with the young kids as well and you can see the influence he has got on the team.

A former Test-playing prop himself for Wales, Jones knows the demands on time that come with being an international standard player and he has the utmost admiration for how Marler has handled his current situation.   “Family comes first, his wife is pregnant, he has got three other kids.

“I’m sure it was a tough call for him but it’s probably magnified how you have to isolate and how your time in (England) camp is a bit different now in the Covid. He has done the right decision by his family which is the most important thing and we are reaping the benefits.     

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“He’s fit as a fiddle,” added Jones, referencing the hefty number of minutes Marler has played in recent months for Harlequins. “He looks after himself. He is incredibly professional, he has got his own gym and looks after himself really well. 

“I know he is a big f***er but he looks after himself really well. His durability is outstanding and he’s digging in. Even when he shouldn’t be digging in he will dig in injury-wise which probably isn’t sometimes the way of the modern-day rugby player, but he will go through a bit of pain to play and we’ll pick him because is a world-class rugby player.”

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'His durability is outstanding': How Harlequins have reaped the huge benefit of Joe Marler's England no-show

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