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Marler opens up about anxiety that led him to seek red cards to avoid England duty

Joe Marler has opened up about his reasons for stepping away from international rugby.

Speaking exclusively to The Rugby Pod, the Harlequins prop opened up on his recent retirement and spoke about how his anxiety manifested itself in irrational behaviour, which led to him getting banned to avoid joining up with England.

It all came to a head when Harlequins faced Bristol Bears in the Gallagher Premiership, a day before England were due to link up for a three-day training camp in Bristol.

“The Bristol game, I played like an absolute helmet which often happened around England time. The anxiety I would get about having to leave and go away again would start to manifest itself in giving away even more dull penalties and looking for outs, looking for a yellow card, looking for a red card, because if I could pick up a ban, then that’s an easy way out, without actually pulling the trigger,” he said.

“After that (Bristol) game, I said: ‘I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep doing this rollercoaster. It’s not fair on my family and it’s not fair on the club to go’.”

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Watch: Joe Marler speaks about his international retirement

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Marler faced a backlash with some media outlets interpreting that he set out to deliberately get banned, something which Marler has subsequently refuted on Twitter.

“I would like to clarify my comments on @TheRugbyPod this morning that have been taken out of context. I have never deliberately done anything on a rugby pitch – or off it – to get a ban.” he said.

“I was simply reflecting on my occasional irrational behaviour when England camps were looming and trying to understand my actions a little bit better.”

Marler retired from the game last week in order to spend more time with his family and he hasn’t looked back since.

“It hasn’t felt that hard. It hasn’t felt like a big decision because I’ve been thinking about it for some time.”

‘I really enjoyed my time with England but as soon as I had kids, it completely flipped my perspective.’

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Marler opens up about anxiety that led him to seek red cards to avoid England duty