One of the most recognisable faces in English Rugby, Harlequins and England prop Joe Marler has had his fair share of moments in the public spotlight.
The 33-year-old has been a stalwart for both club and country for over a decade and as such is better placed than most to discuss the game in England.
Appearing on the popular radio show Talksport, Marler was asked by hosts Ally McCoist and Jeff Stelling about long-time England teammate Owen Farrell’s decision to step down from international Rugby.
“It’s a big call for Faz, he’s decided to step away from it for his own mental well-being and Family’s wellbeing I suspect he’s probably just had enough he’s probably tired he’s shattered he’s been going since he was he was 20 and he’s got his own reasons for it and we can only speculate on some of the stuff that he he’s out about it.”
“The fact that he’s the sort of the quarterback, the general of the team naturally, as well as being the captain, yeah there’s a lot of pressure put on him, and I guess it’s not helped when he puts so much into it, and he gets very little back in terms of appreciation or public appreciation.”
Comparing Farrell to another great of British sport, Marler said that the public perception of the England captain may have factored into the abuse he received.
“I don’t think he’s underrated. I think he’s underappreciated in terms of people recognise he is a fantastic rugby player but just because he doesn’t sit in press conferences and warms to the media or warms to that sort of public appearance, then people are like, oh he’s quite cold.
“I think of it a bit like Andy Murray years back where he used to get a lot of flack yeah, he wouldn’t warm to the media, and then he got a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and he started giving away a little bit more his dry sense of humour, and he was more confident in himself and then people sort of came around to that.”
Clearly disappointed for his teammate, Marler reiterated that he believes Farrell to be a world-class talent.
“For Faz, I’m just gutted for him and I’m gutted for the England team as well because he is a world-class player that has just taken a lot of flak, and there’s thing knocking someone’s performance or playing ability, then there’s another thing when you start questioning people’s character and personality.”
Pressed by Stelling as to whether people felt that Rugby players were fair game due to them being tough guys, Marler felt the issue of social abuse spread beyond Rugby.
“I actually don’t think it’s a rugby problem, Jeff, I think is a societal problem in terms of social media and the ability for anyone to say anything without any, you know, responsibility for what they do say because I’m not sitting here as a victim.
“I’m saying we put ourselves out in the public eye, and you have to take the rough with the smooth. You accept that, but at the same time you go, any danger of just curbing it a little bit or at least having stuff in place to stop people from just putting out straight away without thinking just make people stop and think, actually is what I’m putting out.” Marler said.
In the final part of the clip, Marler was asked whether he felt more England players would take a sabbatical, to which he responded.
“That’s the way the English game should move to. New Zealand have got it they send their players off for a six to nine-month sabbatical in Japan or over in Europe, sometimes just to keep them fresh and keep them happier and have a longer career for New Zealand but that’s based on a central contract, model, and we don’t quite have that that model in England yet.”