Harlequins and England prop Joe Marler gives us the inside track on his team-mates

Joe Marler recently went back to his old school, Heathfield Community College in East Sussex, as part of a feature for Rugby World – and we grilled him about his team-mates for this video. The Harlequins and England prop also took part in a Q&A session with pupils at the school – and here are a few of the questions thrown at him…

Who was your rugby idol growing up?

I liked Jonah Lomu. He was a beast – ginormous, strong, powerful and quick. I knew he wasn’t really anything that I was, but that was the whole point.

Who got you into rugby?

Mr Moore (PE teacher) was a huge influence on me in general, but particularly in sport. He’s one of those guys who has a passion for team sport. My dad too. He used to play for Hellingly and he’s always been rugby mad.

How did you progress from club rugby to now?

I started at Eastbourne. A local lad said I should come down because I was a ‘big lad’ and they could do with some extra weight. I played there until I was 16 and alongside that the county picked me up. I had a couple of representative games for Sussex at U14 and U15 and that exposure got me to Quins. Collin Osborne, who was the academy manager at the time, would look at county games to look for guys with potential.

Quins offered me a contract at 17. I trained with the academy every week and played games for them, then at 18 I got a full-time academy contract and I’ve been there ever since.

Joe Marler

Familiar ground: Joe Marler poses outside his old school in East Sussex. Photo: James Cheadle

Who’s been your best opponent?

There have been quite a few. The toughest is probably (Martin) Castrogiovanni. I made my Quins debut against him off the bench against Leicester and ended up reversing quite quickly at every scrum.

Who’s the best tackler?

Courtney Lawes. We call him Spidey because it looks like he’s got eight arms sometimes. He makes some huge tackles, like that one in the Six Nations on the France ten. You don’t want to be on the end of one of them.

What’s your favourite away stadium?

Probably Kingsholm in Gloucester. Mainly because they’ve got this shed, which they call the Shed, and as you run past it when you’re warming up they say god knows what. The atmosphere they create is intimidating but it gets you up for it.

What’s your favourite try?

There are so many! I have to say I was lucky to get on the end of a rolling maul against Northampton in 2012 in the Premiership semi-finals. There were three minutes to go and we were losing. We had a 14-man maul because the backs had come in and there was no way in hell I was letting one of the backs take the ball off me! I’m not entirely sure if I did score it but I was bottom of the pile and it counted.

Do you get scared by the haka?

I’ve got a bit of a thing about the haka. It’s a great tradition of the sport, but it angers me that one team is allowed to do something more than the other team before a game has even started.

Joe Marler

On the spot: Marler is given a grilling by Heathfield students. Photo: James Cheadle

If you weren’t a prop, what position would you like to play?

I’d probably be the other prop (tighthead). Mainly because they get paid a lot more!

Do you have any tips on how to improve as a prop?

Don’t do it! Seeing me, you’ll realise my better days are gone. I’ve got a wonky nose and my ears are not in the best health. If I had my time again, I would have played prop!

So advice specifically for a prop: you’ve got to be good at scrum time. That’s the reason you’re a prop. There are other boys in the team carrying ball, passing and so on, but your No 1 job is the scrum, so focus mainly on that.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a rugby player?

I’d probably be a turfer. You’re all looking at me blankly, but I used to be a turfer before I played rugby, pushing a barrow and laying turf.

What do you want to do when you retire?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve been so caught up in rugby that I’ve not really had a second to focus on something else. It’s something I need to start looking into; I need to have stuff to fall back on. Even if you have a good career you’ll still retire at around 32 or 33. So there’s a whole other lifetime ahead of you; it’s like the end of school again.

Rugby World’s exclusive feature with Joe Marler is in the July 2015 issue. Click here for the latest subscription offers and find out how to download the digital edition here.