Eddie Jones insists Joe Marler will still be considered for future selection despite withdrawing from England’s Guinness Six Nations squad to be with his family during the coronavirus pandemic.
Marler was named in the 28-strong group that has gathered at St George’s Park but pulled out earlier this week with the defending champions set to spend two months in their bubble environment, leaving camp only during the fallow weeks.
The Harlequins prop chose not to tour Australia in 2016 following a turbulent season and two years later he announced his international retirement, only to reverse the decision ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Always grateful for the opportunity so not an easy decision, but want to do right by my family in these crazy times and won’t be meeting up with the squad for this tournament. Look forward to watching the team rip in. Go well 🌹 x
— Joe Marler (@JoeMarler) January 25, 2021
“Joe has made a decision that we 100 per cent support,” Jones said at the virtual Six Nations launch.
“When he decides to make himself available again we will have another look at selection. And that’s how we look at it – 100 per cent. No ifs or buts, it’s as clear as day.
“There will be some time in the future when he’s ready to come back and will get selected. We’ll take that when it comes.
“Joe has been an outstanding player during my time with England and I’m sure he was outstanding before that.
“He is tough, abrasive, a good defender, a great guy off the field. He’s a bit nutty, but we like that, it’s good to have characters like that in the squad.”
Marler is one of three senior forwards to drop out of the squad, joining Joe Launchbury and Sam Underhill on the unavailable list.
Launchbury has a stress fracture of his tibia and Underhill is struggling with a hip issue, but both should recover before the end of Six Nations, raising the prospect of their return in the latter rounds.
🚑 Bath Rugby have today learned that flanker Sam Underhill has withdrawn from @EnglandRugby's 2021 Guinness Six Nations squad after sustaining a hip injury prior to attending camp.
— Bath Rugby (@BathRugby) January 26, 2021
It is a savage blow for England as Launchbury has been playing some of the finest rugby of his career, regaining his starting place alongside Maro Itoje last autumn, while Underhill is a destructive force at openside.
Marler’s absence stretches resources at prop with Mako Vunipola sidelined by an Achilles problem and Kyle Sinckler banned for the opener against Scotland at Twickenham on February 6 for swearing at a referee.
Jones, however, insists England will adapt to the losses.
“We’ve got a number of wonderful players out – Joe Marler, Joe Launchbury and Underhill, but that just creates opportunities for other players to come in and adds to the team,” Jones said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us. As weird as it seems for a head coach to say, it excites me.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 26, 2021
“We’re going to have to work a little bit harder, we’re going to have find solutions with the new guys coming in and we’ll have to work harder to get those connections right.
“We’ve got someone like Ellis Genge now and he’s now the elder statesmen in the squad in terms of props.
“Four years ago he was a young kid on the block, so that shows how the team has evolved. This is a great chance for us to evolve and adapt so we’re excited.
“Some of the younger guys who have had lesser leadership roles will have to step up to the mark. It’s a great chance for us to keep moving forward as a team.”
Jones has been working while in self-isolation after his assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus.
“I’m in my last day of isolation, day nine and a half! I break out of prison at 1pm tomorrow (Thursday) and will be racing up the road to St George’s to join the squad about 4pm,” Jones said.
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