Joe Marler has revealed he was convinced he was chasing his World Cup dream again, looking “England head coach Steve Borthwick in the eye” to see if he was a “liar”.
Eighteen months after his last international cap, the 33-year-old Harlequins-Loosehead is back with the England side as part of an interim training squad currently traveling in Italy.
Although he has not been given any assurances about a place in the World Cup squad, which will be announced on August 7, Marler admitted that after a frank discussion with Borthwick he was persuaded to switch his arm.
“I said to him … I had to come to you and speak to you personally, look you in the eye and see if you are a liar or not,” Borthwick told multiple national media outlets in Verona.
“I said, ‘I don’t trust anyone, but you can tell a lot about someone by their eye contact.’ That’s why I have to look you in the eye and ask if there’s a real chance of getting into your 33rd squad (World Cup squad). But you say there’s a chance if I work on it, not a guarantee but a chance, then I’m all yours.
“Then he did the longest blink in history. It seemed like a minute before he finally opened his eyes and said, “Joe, there’s a real chance you can make it in my 33 years if you work hard enough.”
“So that was the meeting with Steve. It was a strange encounter – especially for Steve.”
Marler announced his retirement from international football in 2018 but reversed the decision a year later before helping England to the World Cup final, where they were beaten by South Africa in Japan.
The last of his 79 Test appearances came with the Six Nations last year, but he’s back in the squad and the base are motivated by the possibility of a third World Cup season – and taking it one step further.
“Imagine if we could go from the bottom of 2019 (finals) to 2023, shock the world and lift this trophy,” he added. “It’s a tremendous drive for me.”