Maverick Marler's great escape
DISCIPLINARY UPDATE: Controversial England prop Joe Marler will produce one of the game’s ‘great escapes’.
The 29-year-old, who has a chequered disciplinary record, will complete his 10-week ban without missing a match – due to the coronavirus shutdown.
Marler was handed the suspension on March 12 – after being found guilty of grabbing Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones by the genitals during England’s stormy 33-30 win in the Six Nations.
Under World Rugby guidelines, each week of a ban should correspond to a match, with Marler’s suspension set to cover a 12-week period during which the Harlequins player had been due to play 10 times.
The ban expires on June 7 and that time frame will not change despite the suspension in play due to the pandemic having wiped out the fixtures which Marler was due to miss.
Marler had publicly threatened to quit the game, but now he will laugh up his sleeve at his critics.
That led him to temporarily suspend his Twitter and Instagram accounts, although both accounts are now active again.
(Continue reading below … )
The Times report that David Hurley, who chaired the disciplinary panel in the case, wrote to Six Nations bosses calling for a review of the sanctions, given the rugby season has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus.
A ‘secret’ meeting was held and the case for and against a review was heard.
However, the paper says that Hurley’s request was knocked back and the sanction will not be adjusted, despite of the suspension of all fixtures across rugby in the Northern Hemisphere.
Marler will now be permitted to take to the field when his ban expires on June 7, having not missed a match for club or country.
England centre Manu Tuilagi has already completed a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle on George North in the same game.
That ban expired on April 14.
* Some of Marler’s past indiscretions …
‘Gypsy boy’ comment
Wales had lost 21-25 to England at Twickenham, but that result was soon to be overshadowed by a headline-grabbing story which was to dominate the news agenda for weeks.
The notorious incident occurred as a scuffle broke out during the Six Nations clash.
Wales prop Samson Lee was surrounded by white shirts before his opposite number Marler strode over and called him ‘Gypsy boy’, his words clearly being heard on the audio.
Marler apologised to the Scarlets tighthead at half-time and initially escaped any punishment, with the Six Nations deciding not to take any action against him other than a verbal reprimand.
But, as the storm grew, World Rugby overturned that ruling and ordered an independent disciplinary hearing.
On the eve of that hearing, Harlequins loosehead Marler reiterated that he was sorry for what he had said, insisting he was not a racist.
He was banned for two matches and fined £20,000 for breaching regulations by using unsporting and discriminatory language.
Kicks opponent in the head
He picked up another two-week ban following an incident in his comeback match, for kicking Grenoble hooker Arnaud Héguy in the head during a European Challenge Cup semi-final.
Marler withdrew from England’s tour of Australia in 2016, but couldn’t stay out of the limelight.
The prop received a formal warning from the Rugby Football Union for breaking its code of conduct after calling the Wallabies’ 1991 World Cup winning coach Bob Dwyer a ‘w****r’ on Twitter during a row over legality of the scrummaging technique of Dan Cole.
An RFU statement said: “Marler is extremely apologetic for the comment that was made and deleted it within a few minutes of it being posted on Twitter.
“The warning will be retained on Marler’s disciplinary record for a period of five years and may be relied upon in any future disciplinary proceedings.”
Ugly tussle with England teammate
Marler managed to stay out of trouble until September 2017, when he was reprimanded by the match citing commissioner for actions contrary to good sportsmanship which had seen him squirt water at and pull the scrum cap of James Haskell during an English Premiership match with Wasps.
Wasps coach Dai Young accused the England star of goading Haskell into a yellow card.
Haskell claimed Marler had choked him with the strap of his scrum cap, before squirting him in the face with water.
The incident was again put on his disciplinary record for five years.
Marler was banned for three weeks in October 2017, ruling him out of the year-end internationals, after striking now Wales lock Will Rowlands with an elbow in a European Champions Cup clash – again against Wasps – the following month.
Marler’s actions were deemed to be of a mid-range level, which has an entry point of four weeks, but due to his guilty plea and a ‘genuine show of remorse’, a week was taken off the suspension.
Sources: The Times, Press Association & Wales Online