Gustard tips Marler to continue his England adventure

By George Sessions, PA

Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard predicts Joe Marler will continue to play for England, despite the loosehead prop taking it one game at a time.

The 29-year-old came out of retirement to star for his country at the World Cup in Japan but did not want to be drawn on his international future at a club media day on Tuesday.

Marler stated: “If I’m picked, I’m picked and I’ll turn up and enjoy myself again” when quizzed about next year’s Six Nations, but Gustard has more confidence the Harlequins forward will remain part of Eddie Jones’ plans moving forward.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

“I think it would be a shame for Joe and a shame for England if he wasn’t prepared to play international rugby because it’s the pinnacle of his career,” he said.

“He is one of the world’s best loosehead props and to not be in a position to compete, I think would be a shame for him when he looks back on his career.

“I fully expect him to continue pushing for that (England) jersey.”

Despite Jones expressing fears Saracens’ players may play in the Gallagher Premiership in February, Gustard welcomes having internationals in the Harlequins squad.

He highlighted the financial rewards teams get due to Elite Player Squad (EPS) members and feels Marler is better prepared for the demands of time away from his family and representing his country compared to the past.

Paul Gustard worked with Joe Marler in the England set-up before he became head of rugby at Harlequins in 2018 (Mike Egerton/PA)
Paul Gustard worked with Joe Marler in the England set-up before he became head of rugby at Harlequins in 2018 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think we have seen growth in Joe as a human being in particular over the last 18 months,” Gustard added.

“There were times in England camps when he was unhappy and a lot of time spent talking to each other, trying to help him through things.

“We have a good understanding of each other and in moments last year I was there for him.

“Now he is more rounded, emotionally as well as physically, and he’s in a space where I feel he can operate and compete with both the demands of being away from his family and playing for his country and also enjoying his time here.”

England head coach Jones revealed in his new autobiography ‘My Life and Rugby’ this week that he should have selected Marler over Mako Vunipola in the final against South Africa on November 2.

The 29-year-old did not seem too bothered by the confession, though.

Marler added: “He’s got a book to sell so it’s always good to have some headlines. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. On the day South Africa, whoever played, they were pretty unstoppable.”

England were pre-match favourites ahead of the World Cup final against South Africa (David Davies/PA)
England were pre-match favourites ahead of the World Cup final against South Africa (David Davies/PA)

England suffered a 32-12 defeat to the Springboks to conclude the tournament on a major low after stunning knock-out wins over Australia and New Zealand.

But Marler said: “I had an unbelievable experience. I’m gutted we fell short in the final, but what we did as a group and the memories we created there, I had a brilliant time.”

Off the pitch, he revealed: “Dan Cole s*** his pants when went to an owl cafe. He thought it was hedgehog cafe and they didn’t advertise owls. We got out the lift and owls started flapping at him. That was my highlight.”

What to read next