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'When Gussy left you needed the support of senior players and Joe was to the forefront of that'

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Harlequins assistant Jerry Flannery has praised the influence that England exile Joe Marler has provided at the Gallagher Premiership club as they continue to adjust to life without Paul Gustard, their director of rugby who left the Londoners in January.

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Marler was due to head away on Guinness Six Nations duty with England this spring but his wife’s pregnancy and the stricter bubble protocols being used by Eddie Jones’ squad during the championship resulted in the loosehead taking the decision to make himself unavailable for Test level duty.

England’s loss has very much been Harlequins’ gain as Marler has started all five Premiership matches that he would have missed had he stayed involved for the Six Nations. He will start again on Sunday when Harlequins play host to Northampton at The Stoop and assistant coach Flannery has delighted in having Marler about the place these past six weeks.

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“My experience of Joe is he loves this club,” said Flannery. “He is a real Harlequin and the fact that he made the decision to stay with us, his wife being pregnant as well being a major factor, all of the lads look up to him and he is performing for us.

“He is performing every single week and he is a guy who gives the players confidence when he plays with them because everyone wants to have someone like Joe Marler on their team, and he has been a great aid to the coaching group as well. Like when Gussy [Gustard] left you needed the support of senior players and the senior players really stepped up here. Joe was to the forefront of that.”

When rugby fans talk about Harlequins, the chat usually focuses on their exciting attack but Flannery has emphasised the role that a reliable set-piece fronted by Marler plays in the Premiership. “Statistically we have the best scrum in the league,” he enthused.

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“That is down primarily to the players and Adam Jones, but it’s something that people don’t talk about an awful lot about Harlequins. They talk about Harlequins and their joy in throwing the ball around with Marcus Smith, Danny Care and all that.

“When Harlequins won the league (in 2012) everyone talked again about how they used to throw the ball around but they still had the meanest scrum in the Premiership that year. You have got to be a realist – you are not going to win the league or be in contention just by chucking the ball around.

“A lot of people underplay, they don’t talk about our scrum enough and it’s something we feel is a real weapon. We are going to get tested this weekend by Northampton because the Saints scrum has really been performing.

“But Joe is someone who is very, very proud of what he puts out on the field and having him leading there from the front in the scrum is as effective as having Danny Care starting your attack.”

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'When Gussy left you needed the support of senior players and Joe was to the forefront of that'

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