Exclusive: England team evacuated from Brighton hotel after seafront fire

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File photo dated 06-12-2020 of Joe Marler. Issue date: Wednesday May 5, 2021. PA Photo. England prop Joe Marler admits he is a "bit gutted" at being overlooked for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa this summer. - PA
File photo dated 06-12-2020 of Joe Marler. Issue date: Wednesday May 5, 2021. PA Photo. England prop Joe Marler admits he is a "bit gutted" at being overlooked for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa this summer. - PA

England’s rugby union squad have been evacuated from the team hotel after a fire broke out on the Brighton seafront.

Eddie Jones’ team were forced to switch hotels when what is believed to be an electrical fire started in a manhole near the Harbour hotel on the Kings Road. A nightclub was also closed as East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service erected a cordon around the fire. Footage from passers-by shows flames shooting from the pavement.

The England squad are understood to have taken the evacuation in their stride, although it marks another unfortunate episode in the build-up to the Six Nations. Last week Jones lost his captain Owen Farrell to a “freak” ankle injury while wing Jonny May has been ruled out with a knee injury and Joe Marler has been sent home after contracting Covid-19.

Courtney Lawes, who was pencilled in to replace Farrell as captain, meanwhile is unable to train this week as he undergoes the return-to-play protocols from a concussion.

However, Jones has often preached the need to be “comfortable being uncomfortable” and may have found it a useful exercise in team-building despite the inconvenience.

After testing positive for Covid-19, Marler has withdrawn from the England squad for this week’s training camp in Brighton. After returning a positive lateral flow test on Tuesday morning, he immediately went into isolation. A subsequent PCR test taken that morning confirmed the result.

All of the other England players and staff have undergone daily lateral flow testing – all of which returned negative results.

England will not call up a replacement, with the remainder of the squad training in Brighton until Friday ahead of next weekend's Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Regarding his positive test result Marler wrote on Twitter: "Covid can eat s--- but it does mean I can go back to my diet of chillis and onions x".

Based on current guidelines, Marler must isolate for 10 days but can end his isolation period early under new rules providing he tests negative on day five and six after his positive result.

Marler scrummed for Harlequins against Castres hooker Gaëtan Barlot, who withdrew from the France squad on Sunday after also testing positive for Covid.

Marler's positive result leaves England down to Ellis Genge and Bevan Rodd for loosehead props available in training this week, with Saracens' Mako Vunipola not having been called up. Rodd started for England against Australia when both Marler and Ellis Genge were sidelined due to positive Covid test results in the autumn.

Marler later returned in time to come off the bench for England to replace Rodd in the win over South Africa and given he faces a similar recovery race to face Scotland could be left with a spot on the bench again behind Genge, or perhaps out of the matchday 23 entirely after Rodd impressed for Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup on Sunday against Ospreys.

The absence of Marler is just the latest setback to disrupt England's Six Nations preparations this week, following news on Monday that wing Jonny May is likely to miss the opening rounds of the competition with a knee injury. Courtney Lawes, the team's likely stand-in captain in the absence of Owen Farrell, is also unable to train this week as he goes through return-to-play protocols following a concussion.


During his first bout with Covid, Marler revealed that he ran shuttle runs in his chicken pen to keep fit and enjoyed a Pinotage Malbec blend from South Africa while isolating back at home away from the squad.

"I had this chicken pen bit that I could do some running in and I've got a gym in my garage, so I kept on top of that," Marler said back in November. "And then I tucked into a bottle of red a day just to keep things going and I've managed to make it back.

"[The chicken run] is a bit boggy to be fair because it's on a bit of a slump. It's not quite Twickenham standard so I didn't replicate it exactly. I also do have two sets of rugby posts/football goals that I used to, like, picture myself back at Twickenham."

Marler has been a key player for England since coming out of international retirement ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, having called time on his Test career the previous year.

The England head coach’s leadership plans had already been thrown into disarray by captain Owen Farrell’s “freak” ankle

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