Joe Marler: England prop retires from international rugby at 28


Joe Marler played two Tests for the British and Irish Lions

England prop Joe Marler says he is retiring from international rugby at the age of 28 to spend more time with his family.

The Harlequins player has won 59 England caps since making his debut in 2012 and toured New Zealand in 2017 with the British and Irish Lions.

Marler withdrew from head coach Eddie Jones’ latest England squad on Sunday.

“Being with England you have to spend an incredible amount of time away and I could not do that any more,” he said.

“It is an incredible commitment to play rugby for England and I strongly believe that if you are unable to give yourself fully to it then it is time to step away – otherwise it would not be fair on the team, or my family.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to represent my country and of course this has been a very difficult decision to make.”

Marler will continue to play for Harlequins and is available for their Premiership match at Gloucester on Saturday.

Mako Vunipola is England’s first-choice loosehead prop but Marler’s retirement will reduce Jones’ front-row options with just under a year to go until the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

England face South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia in the November autumn internationals.

‘I have got to admire his honesty’

Jones said he was “disappointed” with Marler’s decision, describing him as a “great player and team member” and saying England will “miss him”.

“But he has made his decision on personal grounds and we understand his reasoning,” added Jones.

“He’s a good guy – an honest, mature person who understands the demands of the game and the demands of family life. I have got to admire his honesty and the way he has gone about this.”

Marler made his Test debut in defeat by South Africa in Durban in 2012 and his final appearance was in victory over the Springboks in Cape Town in June.

He won the Six Nations with England in 2016 and 2017 and was part of the squad that failed to get out of the group at the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

Marler made himself unavailable for the summer tour of Australia in 2016, saying he needed to rest, but returned for the autumn internationals that year during a run that saw England tie New Zealand’s record for 18 consecutive Test wins.

In February, Marler said he had been given a stern warning regarding his discipline by Jones.

He was suspended for six weeks in January for a dangerous clear-out of a ruck and missed England’s first two Six Nations matches, having also been suspended for two Tests last autumn.

In a statement on Wednesday, Marler said it was “time to walk away and get some new blood in the team” and that he was “looking forward to being able to give my wife and children more of my time”.

He said he was still “hungry for success” with Quins, having made more than 170 appearances for the club and helping them to their maiden Premiership title in 2012.

“Harlequins has been my life for the past 10 years and I have enjoyed some wonderful times here and I am looking forward to many more to come,” he said.

‘This comes as a major shock’ – analysis

BBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter Chris Jones

Even though Marler withdrew from the latest England squad citing personal reasons, this news still comes as a major shock.

A mainstay of England’s front row since 2012, Marler started England’s last Test and produced an outstanding individual display.

But he has long struggled with the emotional and mental toll of being away from his family for long periods.

Marler has had highs and lows in an England shirt, and is a complex character. But he is also engaging, entertaining and unique – as well as being a high-class player.

He will be missed by England both on and off the field.