Daily Express

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- Neil Squires

JOE MARLER has acknowledg­ed he could be on his last chance as an England player as he makes his latest post-suspension return this week.

The troubled Harlequins prop was banned for kicking an opponent in the head in his last comeback game following his suspension for the “gypsy boy” comments towards Wales’ Samson Lee in the Six Nations.

Last night he spent a third session with England psychologi­st Jeremy Snape to ensure he keeps his nose clean in Friday’s European Challenge Cup final when Quins take on Montpellie­r in Lyon.

“If I’m in charge of strikes I’d give myself unlimited strikes, it’s that simple, but I don’t think it would go down particular­ly well if I did anything but just play rugby this Friday,” said Marler.

“Eddie has been in touch and he has been pretty firm with what he expects of me as a player that is part of his squad. He has been supportive but more in a, ‘Come on mate it is time to wind your neck in’ sort of way. You can only be supportive so many times, can’t you?

“If I go out on Friday night and kick someone else in the head then I don’t think that he is going to be supportive any more.”

Marler admitted he thought he would be banned for longer than a fortnight for the stray boot in the semi-final but the disciplina­ry authoritie­s chose to be lenient after he told them he was seeking expert help.

“I didn’t think I’d be playing again this season,” he said. “I thought I’d be having the summer off as well. I thought I’d get a ban that would take me off the tour.

“So I’m very lucky to be in a position to pull on the shirt for Quins again and even luckier that it’s a final and a chance to get my hands on a trophy.

“I am raring to go and chomping at the bit to get out there and prove to myself more than anything that I am capable of playing a game of rugby on the edge without being a fool, basically.

“It is about challengin­g myself to know that I can still put in a physical hit, or clear someone out, without going over the top with it.

“My issues are not on the field, my issues are off the field but they have spilled on to the field.

“I’m getting there. I’m not sitting here saying I have a lot of problems or I’m a complete nut job. I’m saying there’s stuff that needs addressing in and out of rugby that I’m getting hold of now. It is making me feel better.”

Marler believes England’s World Cup failure – and the subsequent fall-out – was the ° WARREN GATLAND has left the door open for Leigh Halfpenny to make his Test return. The full-back is due to make his Toulon comeback following nine months out with a knee injury.

Gatland, whose side face England and New Zealand in a three-Test tour this summer, said: “There’s a chance Leigh will get a few games for Toulon so there’s the potential to call him up.” trigger that brought his anger issues to the surface.

“The World Cup was meant to be the biggest experience of our lives, the highest point of our careers, and we blew it,” he added.

“It was a lack of admission that it was actually our fault – ‘Let’s blame something else, let’s not look within ourselves’ – that caused my mind frame.

“I thought there was a complete lack of support from the media and an air that they were waiting for an opportunit­y for something to mess up.

“Then obviously from a personal point of view I took a bit of a bashing during that World Cup, and as a team we were complete flops. Mentally I just went inside myself and was like, ‘Forget this’ and fingers up to everyone.

“There wasn’t really any sense to what I was thinking, it was just easier to crawl under a shell and tell everyone to get lost than it was to confront people or talk reasonably or rationally with people.

“The last couple of months were just the final nail to stop pretending that I can keep dealing with it on my own.”

 ?? Picture: DAVID ROGERS ?? THE FINAL TEST: Marler admits he is lucky to be playing
Picture: DAVID ROGERS THE FINAL TEST: Marler admits he is lucky to be playing

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