'I regret the way I behaved towards the six players... f***ing bulls*** from me'
Tomas Francis, Gareth Davies, Finn Russell, Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey and Allan Dell became known as the ‘Geography Six’ after they were in shipped in from nearby tours with Scotland and Wales to play a midweek game.
It was a move that was ridiculed by some fans and pundits, with critics claiming it cheapened the famous red jersey and rubbed salt in the wounds of players who had narrowly missed out on selection by Warren Gatland before leaving the UK.
Now Joe Marler, a dirt tracker on that tour, admits he regretted his behaviour towards the players in question.
“It wasn’t so much toward… For me, I look back on it and I regret the way I behaved towards the six players for the majority of the time,” said Marler speaking on the Joe Marler Podcast. “For some reason, I just went full resentment towards them as if it was their fault that they’d been called up, that when they got the call they should have said they don’t fancy it.”
Marler’s behaviour even went as far as him refusing to be substituted during the Hurricanes midweek game.
“That’s how I felt at the time and looking back on it I feel like that’s f***ing bulls*** from me. Especially the point at which they tried subbing us off and I was like: ‘f*** off’.”
Fellow tour mid-weeker and England teammate, Dan Cole, who appeared on the show gave his take on the episode, saying “You and your strange relationship with [referee] Romain Poite, you basically told him the substitution is not happening.
“He was like: ‘Alright then, play on’.
“So you basically denied the chance for the subs to come on, which is ironic because I think the only bloke that got on was Allan Dell when you got yellow carded against the Chiefs the week before,” said Cole. “But I agree with you. At the time it was a bit of a shock but if you’re one of those boys and someone says to you that you can come onto the Lions tour, nobody is going to say no.
“I think what annoyed some of the boys is that there were a lot of people who’d missed out on selection first time around like your Joe Launchburys of the world that could have come out. Whereas they went for blokes who were on tour at the time. It didn’t cheapen it but you felt like it should have been the blokes who had just missed out.
“You were a bit harsher than the rest of us Joe but it’s not those blokes’ faults, they probably bore the brunt of it and they shouldn’t have because if you were in their situation, of course you’re going to come.”
Marler has previously admitted that his behaviour on tour was out of line, largely as he perceived that he hadn’t a chance of making the Test team.
“It was pretty obvious from the start that I wasn’t going to get a sniff of the Tests and I was a bit of a s*** at times. I regret having those feelings towards it,” Marler said after missing out on the 2021 tour.
“I still had an unbelievable experience and the friends I made for life, but I’d have liked to have gone back this time around and would have tried to help out.”
“If you are Warren Gatland, would you go: ‘It’s a pretty tight bubble, nine weeks away, it’s already tough enough as it is, do I need someone who’s got form of struggling mentally and away from home?’,” Marler said.
“Is that the right person to have on that tour? Probably not. Who knows? Maybe it’s because there are better players than me.
“There are pretty good players in the loosehead position before having to consider someone who hasn’t played international rugby for 12 months and has got form of not being that good at not being away from home.”
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