Joe Marler has made the astonishing admission that he would set out to get himself banned in order to miss England matches – amid anxiety about the prospect of time apart from his family.
Last week, the 28-year-old Harlequins prop, who toured with the Lions to New Zealand last summer, announced that he was retiring from Test rugby with immediate effect. Having withdrawn from England’s training camp, he revealed his shock decision to stand down from national service, just a year out from the 2019 World Cup.
Explaining the rationale, Marler spoke about his desire to ‘spend more time with my family’ and added: ‘It’s an incredible commitment to play rugby for England and I believe that if you are unable to give yourself fully to it then it is time to step away.’
Now, it has emerged that he sought to avoid spells in camp with Eddie Jones’ national squad, by landing himself in hot water.
The loosehead has confessed that he used disciplinary lapses as a means of escape from the dread of being apart from his wife, Daisy, and two children – Jasper and Maggie.
Speaking to The Rugby Pod, Marler said: ‘The anxiety I would get about having to leave and go away again would manifest itself in giving away 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, that’s an easy way out, without actually pulling the trigger.’
By ‘pulling the trigger’, it appears that he meant retiring from international rugby. But Marler came to realise that he would have to pull the trigger as he couldn’t carry on seeking out trouble in order to manage the demands on his time.
Joe Marler has been banned for three weeks after this incident against Wasps.
He’s pleaded guilty to striking with his elbow. pic.twitter.com/b0npJyZNKK
“Six weeks?! That’s ridiculous!” 🤷♂️
“He didn’t even deserve to be sent off!” 🤦♂️
Lawrence Dallaglio and Austin Healey have their say on Joe Marler’s ban…#RugbyTonight pic.twitter.com/hgNMBYJFwQ
Last October, he was suspended after striking Wasps lock Will Rowlands during a Champions Cup match in Coventry and the sanction meant that he missed England’s opening autumn Test.
Earlier this year, Marler picked up a six-week ban for a dangerous ruck clear-out and the up-shot was that he missed the opening two rounds of the Six Nations.
When history repeated itself again, he knew he had to act. He was shown a yellow card during Harlequins’ match against Bristol 10 days ago and recognised the signs. He knew he had to act.
‘I played like an absolute helmet which often happened around England time,’ said Marler – in reference to the Premiership clash at Ashton Gate.
‘That mind-set manifested itself. After that game, I said, “I can’t keep doing this. It’s not fair on my family; it’s not fair on the club”.’
He duly informed Jones that, after making 59 Test appearances since his debut against the Springboks in Durban back in 2012, his international career was at an end.
It had actually come full circle, with a final appearance against the Boks in South Africa – in the victory in Cape Town back in June. Since he made his mind up, there have been no regrets, or second thoughts.
‘It hasn’t felt that hard,’ said Marler. ‘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.’