Joe Marler has taken issue with Danny Cipriani’s claim that there is no room for individuals in the modern game. The colourful England prop is preparing for the second match of his country’s Rugby World Cup campaign, this Sunday’s fixture with Japan in Nice following last weekend’s 27-10 triumph over Argentina in Marseille.
The beginning of England’s campaign coincided with the headline-grabbing publication by Cipriani of his autobiography, Who Am I?
Extracts from the book ahead of its official September 14 release date were hugely critical of the game in England, particularly how it never overly warmed to the maverick tendencies of the infrequently capped out-half.
It was 2018 when Cipriani won the last of his 16 Test caps but Marler, in contrast, has shown that maverick personalities can succeed in the sport as his appearance off the England bench last Saturday at Stade Velodrome was his 83rd cap.
Asked about Cipriani’s allegation that rugby isn’t a sport for colorful characters, Marler said: “That’s his experience, that’s his story. It’s not my story.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 13, 2023
“Is Cip’s book fiction or non-fiction? Do we know what section of the bookshop that is going to be in? Is it going to be in fiction or non-fiction? I tried asking him the other night but he is not answering.
“That’s Danny’s view on it and if that’s Danny’s view, I can’t deny his view on it but it’s not how I see it. That’s his experience and he is more than entitled to share that. More than entitled to have that.”
Whereas Cipriani felt ostracised due to his outgoing personality, Marler has instead taken his experiences in his stride, none more so than when he encountered then-England coach Martin Johnson in 2010 after he was first called up for international training.
“That was 13 years ago now, my first camp. I had a mohawk, it might have been red or something with a rat’s tail at the back. I looked horrific actually. I remember Martin Johnson coming down the steps at Pennyhill reception and he went, ‘Hi, are you ready for training?’
“I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah’. ‘Are you going to have a haircut before you get to training? I was like, ‘Hm…’, and then he just walked off. Some people might interpret that as, ‘Oh, he is being serious’. Is he being serious? It could be the case if you don’t fit the bill and this is how it is, you need to go and shave your hair off. I took it as just joking.”
So did the tactic work, Joe; Did you play for England the next weekend? “Funnily enough I was sent home the next day but I think it had more to do with Andrew Sheridan’s back recovered, I like to think. I get what you’re saying, but it’s also up to the individual. You have got a choice in how you react to being told something.
“So let’s take that day, for example, that Martin Johnson said, ‘You need to cut your hair before training’. Well, it is up to me how I take that, isn’t it? Is he being serious? Well, no actually, p*** off, I’m going to have my hair the way I want it and if you don’t like it will there be consequences to that or there will be a reaction to that, does that mean that I don’t get selected? Okay, so be it.
“Do I want to play the game? Okay, maybe I will toe the line to a degree in order to be part of this team because ultimately it is a team sport and we all have to unite to a certain point.
“The perfect position would be for everyone to be working towards what is best for the team while still being able to show who they are, what they are about, how they want to do it and how they can add to it.”
So are today’s rugby players more able to be themselves than in the past? “Definitely, society has changed. Rugby has been slower. Society has gone faster than it has in rugby but it is getting there.
“You are getting a lot more boys who are feeling comfortable in themselves and being encouraged to be themselves because you get the best out of players if they do feel comfortable and they are enjoying the workplace that they are in.”