When the prospect of being an underdog is presented to Joe Marler, it is all the combative prop can do not to snarl and snap like a foaming canine.
e may be mellower these days, but for an English rugby player, Twickenham is their castle; home ground is never so easily conceded.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt like an underdog at Twickenham,” he says after a dramatic pause, prompted by Eddie Jones’ confirmation of the bookies’ odds positing Ireland at 10/11 for the win.
“Unless it was, maybe New Zealand in 2016. But there haven’t been many times at Twickenham.
“I’ve never thought, “I feel like an underdog this week”. I look at it and think, ‘I know how good Ireland are. I know how good their tightheads are. I know how good their pack is. I know how good their attacking system is.’
“We all look at that and we know how good they are so we have to be right on the money. “We have to be sugar hot” – he tantalisingly avoids a more abrupt word beginning with ‘s’ – “in order to get the win.
“And it helps that we are at home, with the Twickenham crowd. So that’s my answer. Eddie can obviously say whatever he wants, in whatever way he wants to.
“It makes no difference to me whatsoever because I’m too busy thinking of what I’m going to do for my next TikTok.”
Surely, he is prompted, this is some mistake. Not so.
“Are you taking the p**s? If it’s being bigged up this week about how good Ireland are… it’s subjective, isn’t it?” he added.
“Some people might think Ireland are really good and some people might think they are average – it makes no difference.
“I go on what my opinion is and I know from watching them in their last three games and over the last 12 months, how much they’ve improved, and how good some of their players are – so it’s irrelevant what other people say. With the greatest respect.
“They’re still playing a quite similar attacking shape. They’ve got more guys particularly in that pack - Beirne, Furlong and Dorris - who are their key men now stepping up to the plate in those shapes more, as opposed to just heavily relying on the backs to do some moves or wraparounds.
“They’ve now got these boys who are legitimate ball players. That’s probably the difference that I’ve seen.
“Most games are won by the most physically dominant team. We’ll give it a good try.
“They’re pretty good. We’ll need to win that battle in order to put them under enough pressure to give us time to put our game on the park.”
Marler was coached by Andy Farrell and recognises his key influence, too.
“He speaks very well, Big Faz. he’s a great orator. Really taps into the individual and collective emotion of why you want to defend, why you want to get after the opposition,” said Marler.
“I don’t want to generalise but a lot of Celtic nations tend to be held as more emotionally charged than we are.
“I’m sure he’ll get Ireland up for that with the way he talks to the team. So look forward to it.”
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