Rugby

What Did Joe Marler Learn During The Lions Tour? How To Drink

What Did Joe Marler Learn During The Lions Tour? How To Drink

When a group of professional sports people are exposed to one another for an extended period of time, relieving the inevitable tensions that emerge is a crucial component of being successful.

The England squad of World Cup '98 had one way of amusing themselves, while the Dutch side of Euro '96 ultimately ended up critically divided over issues regarding money and race. It is a tricky issue to curtail.

One outlet that was once prized as a vital ingredient for any touring team was drinking, heavy, anarchic drinking.

Yet, as England prop and 2017 British & Irish Lion Joe Marler revealed today,

those days are kind of gone now. Everything is ultra professional isn’t it?

We thought so too.

Becoming a lion is still perceived by many as being the high point of a British or Irish rugby players career. So, what did Marler take from this enriching experience? Well, he 'learned how to drink.'

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Initially, perhaps, learning how to drink may have suggested that Marler had learned to drink properly? Apparently not. And an Irish international was his guide throughout.

Rory Best is the one to blame for that. He is the one to blame for every time I spoke to my wife on Facetime she said ‘are you pissed again?’ And I was ‘of course not’ so that is probably the biggest thing I learned on that tour.

It was a different tour particularly for the midweek ‘veg’ as we were labelled but it was really enjoyable. It was more like an old school sort of tour basically.

Marler did not feature in any of the three tests during the drawn series with the All-Blacks. It was a reality that became clear quite quickly:

We knew pretty early doors what the crack was. We knew it would be very hard to play your way into that Test team – you were kind of relying on someone playing their way out of it and hoping you were in a position to go right ‘needed for that spot’.

Yet, Marler was happily surprised with the general camaraderie surrounding the squad as a whole. With none of the issues emerging that plagued Clive Woodward's 'split' touring squad of 2005, Marler has faith in the model that Warren Gatland adopted.

Amongst a 'great group of blokes that had a really good time', the biggest issue the Harlequins player had to overcome was his 'drinking ability'.

An advocate of this 'looser' approach to preparation, Marler is certain that the drinking culture therein did not,

detract from us working our bollocks off as much as we could because we wanted to be part of a successful Lions tour. We wanted the boys to go out there and win 3-0. We trained very hard and we pushed boys in our positions as hard as we could to make sure they were ready for the Tests.

Will he, therefore, look to inform his national manager Eddie Jones of these surprising breakthroughs in model preparation? Not a chance:

I don’t suggest anything to Eddie – I don’t say a word to him mate – just keep my head down and let the boss do what he wants.

That's probably wise.

Arthur James O'Dea

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