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'Pure joie': How rookie Bevan Rodd won the approval of Joe Marler

By Liam Heagney

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Joe Marler rolled back into the England set-up ahead of this weekend’s Autumn Nations Series match versus the Springboks thrilled that fellow loosehead Bevan Rodd had done his bit at the scrum and much more around the park when he debuted in last weekend’s win over the Wallabies. Marler’s positive test for Covid on November 8 resulted in the 21-year-old Sale player getting called up by Eddie Jones. 

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Rodd was swiftly named on the England bench for the Australian match but he was then catapulted into the No1 jersey on the eve of the game due to Ellis Genge suffering the same misfortune as Marler and testing positive for the virus. 

The emergency left England fans feeling anxious about how the scrum would do minus the seasoned pair of Genge and Marler, but they need not have worried as Rodd wasn’t found wanting when playing for around 70 minutes before making way for Trevor Davison, another loosehead rookie. 

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Marler watched the match while isolating at home, working his way through a couple of bottles of wine as it unfolded, and the 31-year-old with 73 England caps was pleased with what he saw from the newcomer Rodd.

“From a technical point of view scrummaging-wise, he was very good at staying in front of (James) Slipper at tighthead rather than kicking his arse out too often, which is an easy out for a loosehead when the pressure comes on and you are slightly worried that you are not trusting in the hooker next to you and you are, ‘I am going to have to try and make something happen’. 

“The easy thing to do is to step left, kick your arse out, make that gap between you and your hooker even bigger than it is and try and go after him at tighthead on your own – and he [Rodd] didn’t. There was probably once or twice that he veered going that way, the other times he just stayed in front of him, kept plugging away and adapted well in the second half against a smart operator albeit out of position. 

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“I was just really impressed that that level of concentration that was needed at scrum time for him didn’t take away from him and his work rate around the pitch and that he was still having the confidence to carry, still putting his hand up to make tackles. He even had a nice little out the back offload. Pure joie. You want to see a loosehead joie. That was good. I was really pleased, he is a nice kid.”

It was Thursday night when Marler was able to come out from his ten-day isolation and rejoin an England squad where hours earlier he was chosen as this weekend’s bench backup behind Rodd. No sooner was he back in camp was he winding up the youngster with a moment of awkward panic after a handshake between the pair of props.

“I came in to see him and I was, ‘Alright Bev, how are you doing?’ I don’t know him particularly well and he is still young and getting used to it. I said, ‘Well done, mate’ and went to shake his hand when he was eating his food and I shook his hand. Then he started semi-making eye contact with me because I was standing up looking down at him. 

“As I am talking away, he is rubbing his hand on his lap and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ Then he realised what it looked like was that I shook his hand and he was wiping his hand off as if I had given him the Covid and he was scared about it. 

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“I went, ‘What are you doing?’. He was like, ‘No, no, no, I had crumbs on my hand and then I was wiping it off’. I was like, ‘If you had crumbs on your hand beforehand, why didn’t you wipe your hand before you shook my hand and now I got crumbs?’ 

“It was just this sort of awkward panic just to wind him up which was great. But he is a really good kid and I do everything I can to support him and make sure he has a good time on Saturday and understand that yes it will be tough but that is exactly what you want. You don’t want it to be easy. The easy ones are boring.”

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