England prop Joe Marler took time out from the pressures of international sport and got back to his rugby roots at Hellingly Rugby Club this week.
The 22-year-old, still sporting a few battle scares from a bruising six-nations campaign, returned to the club where he was introduced to the game to meet the minis and officially turn on the club’s new floodlights.
His father Paul Marler was a player at Hellingly and Joe would watch from the sidelines before trying out the game for himself with the minis at Eastbourne Rugby Club.
Marler said, “I’ve got a lot of fond memories of growing up here. My dad used to bring me up here and sling me in the clubhouse and that was basically how I was introduced to the sport. It’s great to be back and it’s nice to see that they have a minis section thriving and starting to come through.”
Marler’s rise in the game was swift. His potential was spotted at Eastbourne and was soon drafted in the county set-up.
From there scouts from Aviva Premiership side Harlequins liked what they saw and following a few tough years in their youth set-up he was offered his first professional contract.
By 2010 Marler - and his colourful hairstyles - was a regular in the first team and he played a major role in helping his side to the Premiership title in 2011-12.
England soon came knocking and he made his debut in the most intimidating of environments against World Cup holders South Africa in Durban.
Marler said, “They are memories that will last with me throughout my career. It was a very intimidating place to go. It was a great learning experience to make my debut out there against one of the toughest nations and I feel very lucky that I did that.”
Marler, standing at six-foot tall and weighing in at 17-stone, impressed in South Africa and stood up well to the relentless physical onslaught from the home pack.
The Eastbourne man was included in Stuart Lancaster’s 2013 Six-Nations squad and featured in all five matches, including the bitterly disappointing defeat in Wales where victory would have delivered the Grand Slam to a young England side.
Marler had a tough time in the scrum in Cardiff against experienced Wales international Adam Jones and was hauled off at half-time however, his replacement Mako Vunipola fared little better.
Marler added, “We were disappointed with the result in Wales we had a good chance to make history. Wales came out and outplayed us in every facet and it was another big learning experience. Adam Jones taught me a lesson that day. He has 90 odd caps and I spoke to him afterwards and he said ‘mate, I had dark days when I was your age. It’s how you learn and bounce back from them.’”
“We have to keep learning as a side because we are building towards the home World Cup which is everybody’s dream.”