'Matured' Marler fired up for final
May 26, 2012
Joe Marler will lead Harlequins from the front © PA Photos
Joe Marler believes he has "grown up" over the course of the Premiership season, and is ready to demonstrate his new attitude in Saturday's final when Harlequins take on Leicester at Twickenham.
Marler was sent-off, along with Leicester's Marcos Ayerza, when the two teams faced each other last season. As he prepares to go head-to-head with England team-mate Dan Cole in the decider, Marler says he has curbed his violent ways.
"I was a bit tentative coming into this year, wondering if I was going to have second-season syndrome, nervous that people might have worked me out," Marler told the Telegraph. "I went back to my old ways, throwing punches. I picked up a [three-week] ban straight away for lashing out against London Irish and that was a bit of a turning point for me.
"Was I just going to be one of those blokes who had a little bit of talent but never fulfilled it because they were always fighting, or was I going to knuckle down, do what I was paid to do properly and enjoy myself that way?
"Teams were beginning to work me out, too, figure that I was the hot-head so they'd pick on me, trying to make me lose my head or give away penalties or a yellow card. It's been a slow process but I've grown up, matured, call it what you will, but there's been a bit of a change, that's for sure."
Marler was at the heart of a superb drive and scored what proved to be the match-winning try in the 25-23 semi-final win over Northampton. But he revealed he had to fight off the competition to put the ball over the line.
"Yeah, it was a big thing for us and we'll take a lot of self-belief from it," said Marler. "I had to fight off a couple of our backs who wanted to get their hands on the ball. That was one for the forwards. Nah, actually, it was one for all of us."
After working hard on his scrummaging in recent times, Marler is quick to give praise to tighthead James Johnston, who he says will be a key figure for Quins in the final.
"I thank him after every game for making me look a million dollars and he just says, 'No worries, bro'," says Marler. "I've really focused on my scrummaging. I got caught out a lot of times last season. You can't afford for that to happen. Scrummaging is your bread and butter. If you can't do that, you might as well be a back-row forward in the Championship."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards rewinds to 1864 to mark the birth of Welsh rugby's first authentic star - Arthur Gould