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'I don't think I've found a front rower that is normal' - Joe Marler

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Thursday Jun 27, 2024

England stalwarts Joe Marler and Dan Cole have been around the block a time or two. Both are now well over a decade into their international careers, and the duo remain key components of the England squad.

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Sitting down to a highly entertaining interview, the pair discussed everything from what makes a front row unique to the next generation of England front rows.

Immediately poking fun at one another, Marler opened the interview by saying, “First rule of Front Row Club is…. Is there a club?” to which Cole replied, “Yeah, you just haven’t been told about it, sorry.”  

Leaning into the front row’s key rule, Marler said, “Okay, the first rule of Front Row Club is not to talk about it, apparently. Surely, it’s scrums; it’s just scrums; you have to love scrums; you must enjoy scrummaging.” 

“You’ve got to be good at your number one job, which is scrummaging, and then I’d say your second job is set piece related, is your line-out ability, line-out maul defence and thirdly is whether it’s sort of case that third part is like the unique (trait), probably what you bring, whether it’s like defence, your USP.”

Agreeing with his colleague, Cole, who has made a career of being an immovable force at scrum time, said, “I’d say the bread and butter are scrums, then line out set piece, probably break down with that as well and probably go yeah and then the third part is USB, whether it’s carrying tackling or just clearing things out.” 

Changing tacks ever so slightly, Marler discussed what he perceived to be a shift in trying to devalue the scrum.

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“There’s been so many times where people have been like, what’s the point in scrums? We should try and move scrums on. As you know, scrums are being made redundant at times, like they’ve tried. But then you just look at the last two World Cups and what won those teams or what was the main?” Marler said before Cole quipped “differentiator”. 

“Yeah, in teams being successful, it was the scrums, so scrums are here to stay,” Marler said.

Having been involved in some form or another with just about every England camp dating back to 2010 between them, the duo are have seen many teammates come and go. Discussing England’s latest highly touted prop prospect in Harlequin’s Fin Baxter, the duo were clearly impressed by the 22-year-old Londoner.

“Finn is quiet; he’s keeping himself to himself a little bit.” Marler

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“He’s very assured, like if he’s questioned in meetings or in front row stuff, he’s not afraid to talk.” Cole

“There are quite a few similarities between you and him.” – Marler

“Good looking,” Cole said.

“Yeah, he is good-looking,” – Marler replied

“Jacked,” – Cole

“Yes, he’s slightly jacked.” Marler said before continuing on“He’s got From Leicester, isn’t he?”

“No”, Cole replied.

“Oh, so he’s nothing like you!” Marler said with a laugh.

“We’re not physically (alike), but character-wise, he’s quiet but very intelligent.” Cole

“Some of the stuff he came out with when we took him out for coffee the other day was definitely up to speed with a lot of the chat that was coming from you. Was it about wars?” Marler

“No, what coffee were you at?” Cole replied with a smirk.

Really delving into the finer details, Cole said irrespective of personality, there were a few traits that unit all front row players.

“No, I think the thing about the front row is off-field; you get many different personalities, don’t you? Across the board, front rows tend to be a little bit more (alike), but there are certain people who are quiet, and some people are noisy. But what I’m saying is, to play in the front row, you have to have a certain mentality in the fact that, like it’s not the most pleasant of places at times it can be tough, hard, you can get shown up, it can go really well, all that kind of stuff.”

“It’s obviously a very physical position. So I think you have to have a certain mentality to want to go through that, which is why I think a lot of front rowers get on with each other, because you’re also probably, throughout the years, the fat ones in the team, the slow ones, so you have to find a way of laughing with yourself. You’re the unathletic one that doesn’t keep up in fitness so I think you have to have a certain ability to laugh at yourself when you’re with a lot of boys who use that kind of humour to get through.” Cole said.

Clearly in agreement, Marlet said, “Yeah, it unites us,” to which Cole replied, “The darker times, yeah.” 

“I don’t think I’ve found a front rower that is normal or run of the mill. Each front rower tends to, as you’ve just described, there’s always something about them that’s a little bit quirky or different. Whether it’s an extrovert or an introvert, they’ll still always be weird in a good way.” Marler

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