By Ali Stokes
England, British and Irish Lions and Harlequins loosehead prop Joe Marler, 28, has announced his retirement from international rugby with immediate effect.
This news comes following the 59-times capped frontrower's decision to exclude himself from England's Bristol training camp last Sunday for 'personal reasons'.
The abrasive prop has accredited this difficult decision to his desire to spend more time with his family, including his wife and two children. A decision likely taken following the intense scrutiny of Test level rugby.
Marler's troubled past within the international scene includes a £20,000 fine for calling Wales prop Samson Lee a 'Gypsy Boy' during the 2016 Six Nations and withdrawing from the Australian summer tour later that year, claiming he did not feel he could focus properly on the task at hand, taking time to himself ahead of a new season.
“Whenever you play for England you have to be 100 per cent and unfortunately I’m not in that place,” said Marler. “I would be letting my teammates and country down if I were to tour.”
Marler had sought out professional help during that off-season, stating: “I didn’t know how it was going to pan out – at that point I didn’t care,” Marler said a few months later. “Of course I care but at that point I was like ‘ this is not important to me.’ I had to make that judgement knowing that I may not get back in the squad again.”
In addition to his issues at international level, Marler has accumulated a chequered disciplinary history within club rugby, receiving a two-week ban for kicking an opposition hooker in the head a few weeks after the Samson Lee incident and missing the start of the 2018 Six Nations after receiving a six-week ban for a dangerous clearout on former Sale Sharks' flanker TJ Ioane.
A blow for England Head Coach Eddie Jones, who had always reverted to Joe Marler as his preferred second option in the number one jersey behind Saracens' man Mako Vunipoa, vastly outweighing Leicester Tigers' prop Ellis Genge with 59 caps to Genge's five.
Marler, 28, said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to represent my country and of course this has been a very difficult decision to make, but I have decided to retire from playing international rugby with immediate effect to spend more time with my family.
“It is an incredible commitment to play rugby for England and I strongly believe that if you are unable to give yourself fully to it then it is time to step away. Otherwise it would not be fair on the team, or my family. Being with England you have to spend an incredible amount of time away and I could not do that anymore.
“So now is the time to walk away and get some new blood in the team. And I am looking forward to being able to give my wife and children more of my time.
“I would like to thank everyone at England for the opportunities that I have been given. I will always be grateful for the memories playing for my country has given me.”
England Head Coach Eddie Jones said: “Joe is a great player and team member so I am disappointed and we will miss him. But he has made his decision on personal grounds and we understand his reasoning.
“He’s a good guy – an honest, mature person who understands the demands of the game and the demands of family life. I have got to admire his honesty and the way he has gone about this.”
Marler, who joined the Harlequins Academy in 2008 and has now made over 170 appearances for the Club, scoring nine tries, added that he was now looking forward to being able to concentrate on his club career.
“Harlequins has been my life for the past 10 years and I have enjoyed some wonderful times here and I am looking forward to many more to come,” he said.
“We are hungry for success at The Stoop and I am determined to play a full part in achieving that again for the Club.”