LONDON - Former England Test prop Joe Marler candidly admitted Tuesday that he became so disenchanted with international rugby he sought red cards in club matches so he would be banned.
The 28-year-old Harlequins star, who called time on his 59-Test England career last week, told 'The Rugby Pod' that when a tour or the Six Nations loomed he deliberately aggravated referees into giving him a card of some sort so that he missed at the least one Test.
"The anxiety I would get about having to leave and go away again would manifest itself in giving away more dull penalties and looking for outs, looking for a yellow card, looking for a red card, because if I could pick up a ban, that's an easy way out without actually pulling the trigger," he said.
Marler's recent record supports his claim. He missed England's first two matches in this year's Six Nations because he was banned and prior to that sat out the first two Tests of last November's home series with a suspension.
However, Marler - who courted controversy during his Test career receiving a two-week ban and £20,000 ($26,369, 22,413 euros) fine for calling Wales prop Samson Lee "gypsy boy" during a Six Nations international at Twickenham - realised when he played for Harlequins in a recent Premiership match against Bristol that his England career was up.
"That mindset manifested itself," he said referring to his seeking a way out of joining up for an England training camp. "After that game, I said I can't keep doing this... I can't keep doing this roller coaster. It's not fair on my family and it's not fair on my club." He said he rang England coach Eddie Jones the next day. "I...was pretty honest with him. He said, 'I appreciate your honesty, good on ya, all the best'. It was short."
Marler says becoming a father - he has two sons - had been the turning point. "When I had kids it completely flipped my perspective," he said. "I need to be around more -- half the year I'm away. You might as well write this year off. It's (2019) a huge year -- World Cup, Japan. Yeah you talk about the coin and the earnings, but you can't buy back the years or parents' evenings or the stuff you're potentially missing out on."
I would like to clarify my comments on @TheRugbyPod this morning that have been taken out of context. I have never deliberately done anything on a rugby pitch – or off it – to get a ban. 1/2
..... I was simply reflecting on my occasional irrational behaviour when England camps were looming and trying to understand my actions a little bit better. 2/2
When @JoeMarler was talking with myself and @AndyGoode10 on @TheRugbyPod, he was reflecting and trying to understand some of his previous irrational behaviour. He 💯 was not saying he deliberately went out to get a red card, or ban to miss games. Journos looking for cheap scoops