29-year-old Harlequins prop, Joe Marler, has come out of international retirement in a shock announcement that he’ll be rejoining the England training squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Coach Eddie Jones has announced his 35-strong squad (with an additional three in rehabilitation) and while a number of familiar names made the list, it was Joe Marler that really caught the crowd’s attention.
Marler initially announced his retirement from Test Rugby back in September 2018, citing family-based reasons but in recent months, has showcased an interest in making a comeback on the pitch. The ex-Harlequins prop will be joining the England team at this year’s tournament in Japan and given his record on the field, he’s a welcome addition.
Despite joining the Harlequins academy in 2008, it wasn’t until 2010-11 that he truly started to get the recognition that his dedication and play style deserved. Famed for his colourful hairstyles, he began to garner a fan base but his questionable temperament began to outshine even the brightest hair. He was earning a series of yellow and red cards, making game estimations difficult for tipsters and fans alike, but by 2011-2012, he was coming into his own.
His previously hot-headed and ill-disciplined play style was transformed into a ruthless, mature but more importantly, controlled play style that secure some impressive performances throughout the championships. He went on to improve his scrumming ability and was swiftly recognised as having huge potential in the England team – in short, he was an obvious choice for this year’s training squad.
When speaking of the decision to choose Marler, Jones commented:
“I saw Joe during the Barbarians’ week, and he indicated that he had a desire to come back… We have since had a couple of chats and we have given him the opportunity to do that. Now it is up to him to show us what he has got.”
The team announced the new training squad in a tweet:
The squad will begin the first official training week from Sunday, where they will meet in Bagshot to start the process. Following that week, they will go on to head to Treviso on 22nd July for the first of two “warm-weather” camps.
As with every Rugby World Cup training squad, only 31 of the 38-strong team can make the final cut and it’s during the coming weeks that the this will be decided. Players will need to prove themselves worthy of a spot on the team and given Marler’s previous retirement, he’ll have a lot to prove. He’ll be amongst four uncapped players, including Gloucester’s captain Willi Heinz, Lewis Ludlam who was a former U20 forward, Olympic Silver Medallist Ruaridh McConnochie and Jack Singleton. Whether Marler can help make the final cut and help them bounce back from the disappointment of the past few tournaments has yet to be seen, but we’re eagerly watching to find out.