EXCLUSIVE: England prop Joe Marler admits he ‘lost motivation’ to play after 17 months out of the squad before Steve Borthwick’s vote of confidence gave him ‘new life’ ahead of World Cup
For once, Joe Marler cannot find his words. He runs his hand through his thinning hair and stares at the floor, thinking about what it means to have another chance at a World Cup.
“I missed playing for England,” said the prop, who was out of the squad for 17 months until this summer. “I got a little lost. I lost the reader.
“I would just come in once in a while and play, but there was nothing really to do. It was mediocre on my part, but that’s exactly where I was at.
“If we had won in Japan in 2019, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now. I probably wouldn’t talk to anyone except in the evening at an after-dinner concert. I can’t do that, so I always had this desire to do better at a World Cup.
“I left this World Cup with great happiness but also with a ‘What could have happened?’ You see these pictures of Richie McCaw, Martin Johnson, Siya Kolisi lifting the trophy and I think: “It could have been us.” It’s kind of weird to say that out loud.
Joe Marler is back in the England squad ahead of the World Cup after 17 months out of the squad.
The prop proved his fitness to England coach Steve Borthwick and earned his place at the tournament in France.
Marler admits he ‘missed playing for England’ after saying he had previously ‘lost the drive’ playing for his country
“It wasn’t until Steve Borthwick called me in May and said, ‘I think you could improve the scrum but you’re not fit enough’, that I really had something to continue. It gave me a new life…’
Marler pauses and takes a moment to think about his own words before addressing Mail Sport. “Usually I just find something funny to say, but you got me thinking and thinking for once,” he says.
“You made me say something profound. You idiot!’
Back in January, while we were having lunch with Tom Kerridge at his restaurant in central London, Marler said his days in the England squad were over. “I was just happy to have free meals at Tom Kerridge’s Bar and Grill with you guys. Was it really nice? We go back ?
“But yeah, in my opinion there was no chance of playing for England at that time. I was out of the mix and that was it. Tom actually texted me to say “Congratulations” when I was named to the team. But I don’t want being named among the 33 to be the pinnacle. That wasn’t the goal. The goal is to start winning again in the jersey from England.
“You and a lot of people in the outside world think England don’t have the ability to win the World Cup. The rest of the world are pushing us aside, but I know there’s enough talent in this team to beat anyone today.
England’s disappointing performances in warm-up games led many to write them off ahead of the tournament.
Marler was part of the England team beaten in the World Cup final by South Africa in 2019.
The clouds over the English side are definitely dark but Marler remains sunny and relishes the prospect of facing the Argentinian scrum next Saturday.
“Statistically, Argentina are the toughest team we’re going to face,” he said. “Their melee is powerful. It’s heart-driven, the emotion, it’s “We’ll come after you no matter what.” Sometimes it’s reckless, sometimes they just take what they can get. It can be hell to play against and hell to prepare for because you think you have them on a trend, but they don’t have a lot of trends.
“It’s one of my favorite challenges to complete. I remember a tour there in 2013 and it was just an awesome feeling. In 2019, that changed when they got a red card and we got the upper hand.
“It will be another level when we meet this time and that makes my mouth water a bit.”