Tuesday 25 April 2017

Joe Marler

Podcast Episode - 8

Joseph William Marler

Loosehead Prop - England & Harlequins (and 2017 British & Irish Lion)
drank six gallons of milk to mend his broken leg
Born: 7th July 1990
Father: Paul
Partner: Dasiy
Son: Jasper
Dogs: Black Labs - Rufio & Kozie

Weight: 116kg (18.4 St)
Height: 1.85M (6'1")

51 Caps 0 Tries

102 Caps and 5 Tries
Captain 2014/15 Season

Joe was born in Eastbourne, Sussex on 7th July 1990. He attended Maynards Green Primary School then Haywards Heath Community College. He started playing rugby when he was 11 for Eastbourne Sharks then joined Haywards Heath RFC where one notable team mate was Billy Twelvetrees.

He represented Sussex at all age groups from U14's through to U18's as well as London & The South East in 2006. 

Joe is also well known (or was) for his bizarre sense of style when it comes to his hair. In 2011, in front of a packed Twickenham crowd, he sported a mohawk with rat tail which is bad enough, but he also had "Jolly Hog Sausages' carved out of the hair on either side. It was a stunt to promote team-mate Ollie Kohn's company and it worked a treat until the pair clashed heads half way through the game and a bandage covered the message. He seems to have calmed down on that front these days preferring to focus more on the rugby, but there's always room for characters in the England squad and hopefully some of that is still in there somewhere.

Domestic Career

In 2008, he joined the Harlequins Academy but was immediately sent on loan to Worthing RFC. The following year, still on loan, he joined Esher in the Championship before making his Premiership debut for the Harlequins senior side towards the end of the 2010/11 season, but a series of disciplinary issues, a handful of yellow's and a red card overshadowed his debut season.

By the start of the following year, Joe had become an integral part of the Quins front row and in the 2011/12 Premiership final, they beat Leicester Tigers to win their first top-flight title.

At the start of the 2014/15 season, Joe was offered the captains armband by Director of Rugby (and now Italy boss) Connor O'Shea. Despite initial reluctancy, he accepted the honour and took over from England team mate (and then captain) Chris Robshaw. The following year however, Joe handed on the baton to Danny Care preferring instead to focus on his game without the added responsibility.

In 2016, Joe signed a new contract with Harlequins cementing himself as a true club man, "a Quin", and expressing the pride he has when he pulls on the "quarters" at the Twickenham Stoop.

In total, Joe has 102 caps for Harlequins and has scored 5 tries for the South West London side.

International Career

In 2007 he had his England debut, representing the U18's - incidentally he was offered the captaincy for a training game against South East Academies (a game they won by 30 points) which he initially turned down despite doing the job on the day.

In 2009 he was selected in the U20's for the Six Nations, but was injured for the duration, he was however fit for the Junior World Championships that summer and made his U20 debut there. His U20  Six Nations debut coming the following year against Wales where he scored two tries.

That same year he was also called up to the senior squad as cover for Dave Wilson. Despite not being required, he remained with the squad until his Saxons debut in 2011.

In 2012 he finally got his first senior cap against South Africa during England's summer tour in which he played in all three tests. Following his debut, the first game he missed for England was in 2014 when his partner Daisy went into labour with his first son, Jasper.

In 2015, Joe was part of the England side that crashed out of their home World Cup in the group stages, it hit him hard and his discipline suffered. In 2016, following the appointment of Eddie Jones as the new England boss, Joe continued to be a key member of the side and played a pivotal role in the teams first Grand Slam in 13 years, despite the now infamous "Gypsy Boy" scandal.

When he stepped onto the field in the final game against France to complete that emphatic grand slam, it was his 42nd England appearance and he'd missed only 4 since his debut in 2012.

Following the aftermath of his comments to Samson Lee in the Wales game, Joe decided to seek physiological help, ruling himself out of the England summer tour to Australia to instead focus on clearing his head, spending more time with his family and taking back more control of his life. It was a risk at a time when England places were so competitive, but he did it with the full support of Eddie Jones, and in 2017, he returned to the England fold for the Six Nations Championship.

This wasn't plain sailing either as he sustained an initially undiagnosed broken leg against Worcester Warriors on New Years Day despite playing the full 80 minutes. The scan only revealed this on the 9th January when preparation for their game on 7th against Saracens suggested to him that something might be more seriously wrong.

With limited time before the start of the Six Nations, and a severe case of claustrophobia; hyperbaric oxygen therapy was not an option so with the support of England team physio, Phil Pask, Joe began a 2 week milk cleanse! 2 pints a day of full fat milk (and occasionally gold top for its 1000 calories a pop) and his leg was healed in time to start in the first game against France - a significant test given that he would be facing World Rugby's heaviest prop in Uini Antonio - a 24 stone giant carrying 40kg on Joe!

5 weeks on and Joe led the England team out onto the Twickenham turf for his 50th cap against Scotland. A game that broke records, equaled records and secured England their second consecutive Six Nations title.

In total, Joe has 51 caps for England but he's still holding out for that elusive first try.

Scandal, Discipline and a "Gypsy Boy" named Samson

On 12th March 2016, England hosted Wales in the Six Nations Championship. A strong performance from England, despite a late, desperate comeback from Wales saw England victorious but the game was marred in controversy because of this:

and it went on to become a global talking point.

Should Joe Marler have called Samson Lee a "Gypsy Boy"? No, probably not, but is he a racist? Not in this humble blog/podcast's opinion.

Things get said in the heat of battle - its a fact, not an excuse - but another fact is that he apologised to Samson at half time and after the full time whistle blew, he apologised again and Samson Lee accepted it. Does that sound like a hate crime? Do you often see racist hate crimes immediately apologised for?

In a post match interview he (Lee) described it as banter, a theory reiterated by Wales Head coach Warren Gatland - that is until social media started going nuts! Suddenly both Lee and Gatland were in agreement that his (Marler's) behaviour was unacceptable. Really!

Over the course of the following weeks as talk turned to sanctions, fines and possible criminal charges (seriously!),  Connor O'Shea, Joe's boss at Harlequins stepped forwards. He made an interesting point. No one showed any interest in comments aimed at English players calling them "posh English c**t's", but surely this is as much a derogatory term aimed at a persons nationality as calling a person of Gypsy decent a "Gypsy Boy" - you might argue its considerably more offensive?

Now, we're not suggesting that that should be deemed a hate crime, we're merely pointing out the double standard. Punch a man in the face if he aggrieves you and get a warning, but call him a name and we'll need to consider legal action!

Joe was initially acquitted by the RFU, but social media pressure on World Rugby to do more saw him handed a 2 week ban and a whopping £20,000 fine - thats more than most people take home in a year! It was the catalyst for his self imposed exclusion form the 2016 summer tour to Australia as Joe made the decision to take some time off and try to get his head straight. It appears to have worked, as his game has certainly improved and now we'll see him join the Lions in a few months, lets just hope it hasn't taken any of the fire from his belly.

Incidentally, Joe and Samson have since made up when they shared a post game beer after meeting again for the first time since the incident in this years Six Nations match in Cardiff.

Podcast Episode - 8


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