There were some notable absentees from Harlequins 32-25 defeat of London Irish last weekend.
Chris Robshaw, Tim Visser and Jamie Roberts were all rested for the game at the Madjeski. Mike Brown, who would have hoped to start, failed a late fitness test. The win, which relegated Irish from the top flight, also came without the help of Joe Marler.
The England prop was serving the first week of a two week ban, picked up against Grenoble last weekend.
The Challenge Cup semi-final against the French side was Marler’s first game back from a previous two week suspension. During the first half of the game, the 25 year old kicked Arnaud Heguy in the head, an act which was caught on camera. That moment of indiscipline was the latest in the litany of disciplinary problems that have followed Marler this season.
The previous ban was picked up during the 6 Nations game against Wales, during which Marler called Wales prop Samson Lee “gypsy boy”.
In the aftermath of the incident with Lee, which resulted in a two week ban and £20,000 fine, Marler met with sports psychologist Jeremy Snape. Snape is a former international cricketer and coach, who has worked with the South African cricket team. His current clients include Crystal Palace and the England Rugby team.
It was through the latter that he came in contact with Marler.
However, initially Marler did not view his verbal abuse of Lee as a psychological problem. It was not until the incident with Heguy almost two months later that Marler acknowledged his issues. Speaking to the Sunday Times, the 25 year old admitted that his on-field behaviour had gone “way out of control”. After the game he got back in touch with Snape.
“It was a question of continuing to tell everyone to f— off, or go away myself and crawl under a rock,”. via The Sunday Times
In the candid interview with Stephen Jones, Marler also admitted wrongdoing in his altercation with Samson Lee.
“I saw it as an opportunity to get hold of Samson and try to rough him up. I honestly did not know as I said it that what I said was out of order. I put my arm around Samson as we went off at half-time and said sorry”
Marler received two weeks for the kick to the head of Heguy, half of the entry point ban for such an offence. A four week ban would have ruled him out of the Challenge Cup final against Montpellier. According to Marler, the fact that he acknowledged his problems and sought help was a mitigating factor.
“I told them I recognised that I needed help and I was getting help and whatever they gave me was fine.”
Whether the sessions with Snape will alter Marler’s on-field behaviour is tentative. England’s disciplinary record in this year’s 6 Nations, when Snape was already working behind the scenes, was poor at best. If he is to solve the disciplinary problems of Joe Marler, he will have to work more ardently than before.
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