Joe Marler has carved out a niche as rugby’s ultimate maverick so it comes as a surprise to the England prop when Danny Cipriani claims there is no room for individuals in the game.
A theme of the now-retired Cipriani’s career was that of an unfulfilled talent on the international stage whose outrageous natural ability was never truly trusted by a succession of England coaches.
In the 35-year-old former fly-half’s autobiography, he suggests his face did not fit in the sport.
“Rugby has so many amazing qualities like camaraderie and teamwork. But it needs to allow people to be themselves,” said Cipriani in his recently released autobiography ‘Who Am I?’.
But as one of rugby’s most colourful figures and the source of several disciplinary storms, Marler disagrees with Cipriani.
“That is his experience. That is his story. That is not my story,” said Marler, who is expected to be on the bench for England’s World Cup clash with Japan on Sunday.
“Is Cips’ book fiction or non fiction? Do we know what section of the bookshop it will be in? I tried asking him the other night but he’s not answering.
“That is Danny’s view on it and I can’t deny his view on it. But that is not how I see it. That is his experience and he is more than entitled to share that.
“Martin Johnson was in charge for my first camp 13 years ago. I had a mohawk – think it might have been red or stars and a rat’s tail at the back. I looked horrific, actually.
“I remember Martin Johnson coming down the steps and he went: ‘Are you ready for training?’ I said ‘yeah, definitely’.
“He said ‘are you going to have a haircut before you get to training?’ I was like ‘Umm’. Then he just walked off.
“Now some people might interpret that as him being serious and it might be a case that actually you don’t fit the bill, you need to go and shave your hair off. But I took it as ‘he’s just joking’.
“Funnily enough I was sent home the next day! But I think it had more to do with the fact Andrew Sheridan’s back recovered. I’d like to think that!
“It’s up to the individual. You’ve got a choice in how you react to being told something.
“The perfect position would be everyone working towards what’s best for the team whilst still being able to show who they are, what they’re about, how they want to do it and how they can add to it.”
Marler is taking part in his third World Cup and has seen his Test career reborn since Steve Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones at the end of last year.
“Having been out of the previous environment for 18 months and then coming back into Steve’s environment and experiencing it for the first time in a World Cup camp and now here, there has been a huge difference in terms of how a lot of the group have felt, who they can be and how they can behave,” Marler said.
“It’s that’s had a massive effect on how the players are approaching training and how they are enjoying themselves both on and off the pitch.
“For me, I just try my hardest to encourage that environment to keep that consistent because it does need work. It does not just happen.”