Eddie Jones will sit down with Joe Marler to try to persuade the disillusione prop to carry on in rugby when the lockdown restrictions are eased. Marler, who came out of Test retirement to resume his international career in 2019, was reported to be considering quitting the professional game for good at 29 after being handed a ten-week ban for groping Alun Wyn Jones in England’s win over against Wales last month.
But the England coach, who last week signed a contract extension through to the 2023 World Cup, wants Marler on the journey with him and intends to use Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira as an example of what could lie ahead if he recommits.
England are well stocked at loose-head with Mako Vunipola and Ellis Genge but Marler is the best pure scrummager of the lot. ‘The Beast’ showed in destroying England in the World Cup final how valuable a setpiece asset can still be.
“You only have to look at The Beast who was at his best in the World Cup in 2019 at the age of 34,” said Jones.
“Joe is a relatively young man with a lot of rugby ahead of him but you have to have the desire to keep playing. Only Joe knows that. At the end of the day, he is a great player but we want players who want to play for England. He will make that decision.
“There is a lot of depth to him as a character: he has obviously made some mistakes but he is a great team man, rugby player and person. I look forward to having a chat with him at the appropriate time.
“We were due to catch up in Horsham a couple of weeks ago but the social distancing rules came in. The next opportunity I get I will catch up face to face.”
The Harlequins prop argued at his disciplinary hearing three weeks ago that while he had committed foul play in tweaking the testicles of the Wales captain the act did not deserve a red card.
The panel hearing the case disagreed and banned Marler until June 8. Ironically he may end up missing no rugby at all while suspended because of a shutdown which could run and run.
The fallout from a Six Nations game in which Manu Tuilagi was also sent off for a high tackle continued post-match when Jones questioned referee Ben O’Keeffe’s impartiality by claiming England had been playing against 16 men.
The England coach was reprimanded by the RFU and warned over his future conduct and admits now he regrets his outburst.
“I did not directly apologise but indirectly we did,” said Jones. “I made it clear that it was an inappropriate way to express my disappointment and the next time I see him I will definitely have a chat with him. He is a good young fella.”