Joe Marler 'never overly comfortable playing top sport'

Marler’s international career began and ended with Test away to South Africa

Former England prop Joe Marler has described how he had to be talked into reporting for international duty by his wife because of his anxiety over playing top-level sport.

Marler retired from international rugby in September, aged just 28, to spend more time with his family.

“I’d never been overly comfortable playing top, top, level sport,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I’d be like ‘I don’t want to go away’. She’d say ‘you’ll be fine, crack on’.”

Marler won 59 England caps and was part of the British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand in 2017.

But the Harlequins front row says he never felt at home in such environments, telling the Friday Sports Panel he struggled with “the pressure of it and how intense it could be”.

“I usually don’t take myself too seriously and you kind of have to do that in international sport, don’t you?” he added.

Marler says he came to the decision to end his England career after realising his priorities had gradually changed since getting married to wife Daisy, and the birth of their children Jasper and Maggie.

Marler with wife Daisy and their two children

“My number one priority had been for so many years rugby, rugby, rugby, trying to achieve as much as I could in that, and once I’d ticked off a lot of those boxes and I’d settled down, got married, had children, things started to change for me,” he added.

“I got a bigger perspective in life. Playing for my country is a huge achievement that I’ll look back on and be very proud of, but in life terms it’s actually a small achievement isn’t in? There’s other things in life that I value more such as whether I can help my son to read and write.”

Marler got a pang of regret while watching England’s win over defending champions Ireland in the first round of this year’s Six Nations, but otherwise has enjoyed watching England on television rather than from the middle of the action.

Even if not all of the family have quite caught up.

“When I watched the Ireland game there was a small part of me that was like “Corr I’d love to have that little buzz,” he said.

“My boy Jasper struggles with it because he’ll be five next week. He’s come to Twickenham a lot over the years and fully immersed himself in it and loves it. But he still doesn’t quite get it that I’ve packed it in.

“I’m sat there with him watching the game and he’s like, ‘Right, Daddy when are you coming on?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m sat next to you, I’ve literally got my arm around you’.”


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