Joe Marler has been told he remains part of Eddie Jones’ plans for the 2023 World Cup after he escaped the cull of senior England internationals.
Ruthless Jones has axed Billy and Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and George Ford – each a stalwart of his reign as head coach – for a three-day pre-autumn training camp that begins on Sunday, describing it as a “line in the sand”.
While the door has been left open for all of them, they have been told that only a return to form will place them in contention for France 2023 as Jones looks to lower the age of his team.
But Marler has escaped the purge despite being 31 years old and withdrawing from the Six Nations in January for family reasons, his destructive role in Harlequins’ Gallagher Premiership title triumph evidence of a player operating at the peak of his powers.
“Everything’s going to be about getting ourselves right for the World Cup. If we kept the same team, the same team would be too old by the next World Cup. We know that so we’ve needed to refresh the team,” Jones said.
“I had a chat to Joe, we went for coffee down at Horsham, had bit of chat and he wants to be part of it.
“His form at the end of the season was outstanding. His effort in the Premiership final and the semi-final was superb.
“He’s in good form and he wants to be part of it and wants to give it a crack. We will see how we go with it.
“But he’s going to have to compete hard because there are some good players here. Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd and Beno Obano all did brilliantly in the summer.”
In preparation for Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa this autumn, Marler will work with Richard Cockerill for the first time.
Cockerill, the fiery former England and Leicester hooker who once famously stared down Norm Hewitt during the All Blacks’ Haka, has been recruited by Jones to help mould the forwards after he was released by Edinburgh.
“Richard has got a fine record,” said Jones. “He has won trophies at Leicester. At Leicester he’s done everything from driving the bus to being director of rugby. He’s got a good spectrum of experience and is a proud Englishman.
“When we introduced him at the coaches’ meeting one of the others got up a clip of him and the Haka… when he went up to big Norman Hewitt and fronted him.
“He tells the story about when Martin Johnson came up to him afterwards. I can’t repeat what he said, but it was quite funny.”