Maturing Marler has a touch of the old school
Excluding the tattoos, there is a touch of the old school about Joe Marler, but even he would not be silly enough to take on his Harlequins and England predecessor Jason Leonard in a drinking match.
Moments after having played his best game in an England shirt in Saturday’s 30-22 defeat to New Zealand at Twickenham, the 23-year-old emerged from the changing rooms with a bottle of beer in his hand – not for him the standard issue protein shake or bottle of water.
Marler was so influential he played a full 80 minutes for head coach Stuart Lancaster’s men, a rare feat among props in the modern game, but something Leonard was accustomed to during his rugby heyday.
It is not something the former Richmond-Upon-Thames College student would relish repeating, but he admitted making half as many Test appearances as the 45-year-old World Cup winner would leave him satisfied.
And while going toe-to-toe with the All Blacks was not a problem at the weekend, taking on Leonard pint-for-pint is something he will not attempt any time soon.
“Props should not play 80-minutes in this day and age. There are enough boys on the bench to ensure that doesn’t happen,” he joked.
“I’ve met with Jason one or two times, but never ventured into the pub with him for fear of being drunk under the table – quickly.
“He is a great example for me as a player and if I get half as many caps as he did I’ll be a happy man.
“I’ve got 15 caps now, but competition is hot. We want depth in every position going into the World Cup and we’re starting to get that.
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“There is me, Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola at prop. They’re two British Lions I’m having to compete with, but we want that throughout the squad.”
Marler started against the All Blacks due to injuries to his two rivals and delivered arguably his best performance for his country.
England’s forwards dominated large parts of the game, but were unable to close out the match in the final quarter as New Zealand clinically grabbed victory from the jaws of a second successive defeat at rugby HQ.
But Marler felt Lancaster’s men were catching up their southern hemisphere rivals.
“Scrummaging was tough as always, but we set the platform for the boys to play and I enjoyed myself out there,” he added.
“We’re disappointed to lose, but we’ve shown the gap between us is not that big.”
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