Search icon


20th Feb 2019

‘You never say never’ – Joe Marler on England retirement at 28 and World Cup possibilities

Patrick McCarry

Joe Marler

“Can I say this story?!”

Back in September, two months after turning 28, and after 59 Test caps, Joe Marler announced his retirement from international rugby.

Marler, who helped England to Guinness Six Nations titles in 2016 and 2017, had toured with his country to South Africa and had played superbly in the Third Test in Cape Town.

The Harlequins prop played all 80 minutes of that 25-10 win over the Springboks and, on the latest episode of JOE UK’s House of Rugby, he recalled a conversation he had with one of Eddie Jones’ assistants when it was suggested, around the hour mark, he might be replaced.

“It was about 50 or 60 minutes in the last Test and Wisey – Scott Wisemantle – came on and he was like, ‘Mate, boss says you’ve got five more minutes’.

“And I was like, ‘Wisey, you can tell him to get f***ed!’

“And Wisey was like, eh, I’m not going to do that Joe, and then he ran off with the waters.

“So we carried on about another 10 minutes and Wisey comes back on – ‘Boss says last effort, mate. Last couple of minutes’.

“I said, ‘Wisey, honestly, you’ve got the mic on now. Tell the boss, ‘Get f***ed!’ I’m staying on, mate. we’re seeing this f***ing job out.

In that final 10 minutes, England added 10 more points to their score to win comfortably against the hosts. Marler can’t tell for sure if Jones ever got the full extent of his message but he reckons the Aussie did.

“I was shattered. A brilliant finish to the game but I was done. I had made my decision (to retire) and was sat there on one of the stools, with the boys, at the after-match function. Got a glass of red and someone taps me on the shoulder. It was Eddie.

“He goes, ‘F***ing love that’.

“I’m like, ‘What?’

“‘F***ing love that. You know, you know!'”

Marler reckons it was because he knew that would be his final Test match, he spoke from the heart and cared little for the consequences. Jones, as outspoken as they come, clearly respected that.

England’s first-choice loosehead prop is the impressive and powerful Mako Vunipola but Marler always pushed him hard. Indeed, 43 of his 59 Test caps were in the No.1 jersey, as opposed to coming off the bench.

He easily could have been playing in this year’s Guinness Six Nations and travelling to Japan, in the autumn, but he made the decision to step away from international duty to have more time at home with his young family.

Asked by host Alex Payne if he would answer the call from Jones should England be in need of his services for the World Cup, Marler replied:

“In the very unlikely event that Eddie comes to me and goes, ‘Mate, we need you to come and hold a pad and do Mako’s training’, I don’t know. You never say never.

“I have heard from Eddie [since I retired],” he added, “by text. He hasn’t [asked me if I’ll change my mind]. He’s like, ‘Thank f*** for that, mate, because I was going to do it anyway!'”

With Marler, he is only every half-serious half the time but, knowing Jones too, we would not be surprised if that message wasn’t far off the truth.

For now, though, Marler is focused on club duty with Quins and spending more time at home. After a well-earned summer off, a refreshed Marler could still be worth reaching out to as he is still one of the country’s top loosies.

Subscribe here to JOE’s House of Rugby:

Episode 19 sees Alex Payne joined by James Haskell and Joe Marler to discuss leaf-blowers, retiring from England duty at 28, refusing to be subbed and the upcoming third round of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.