England tour absentee Joe Marler leaves his troubles in the past
England prop Joe Marler insists he is back on the right track after making himself unavailable for the summer tour of Australia.
The 26-year-old found himself in regular disciplinary trouble last season, with bans for calling Wales' Samson Lee "gypsy boy" during the Six Nations and then for kicking Grenoble's Arnaud Heguy in the head on his comeback for Harlequins in the European Challenge Cup.
Those issues, and the media scrutiny they brought, led to Marler falling out of love with rugby to the point he had to tell England coach Eddie Jones he did not feel mentally able to make the trip Down Under - where England produced a superb 3-0 series win.
Marler told several national newspapers: "It dawned on me when we met up for that camp (before the tour). I was driving home when I was like, 'I don't want to be here'. I just didn't have it in me. It was tough, but not enjoyable tough.
"I told Eddie the following day and he was really good about it, wished me luck and that was it.
"I wouldn't want to be running around the field with someone who is there just to pick up a pay cheque. I thought about what I would have thought as a kid if I saw my hero, or a player I looked up to, just going through the motions."
Marler is confident he has conquered his demons as he prepares for the resumption of club action with Quins - but accepts he will be tested.
"It was well publicised how much trouble I was getting myself into," he said. "I was just losing control of it all. it wasn't just those moments (with Lee and Heguy).
"I've spent the entire off-season reflecting on the year and trying to establish the lesson I can learn from it. Everything is hunky dory at the moment but there's that Mike Tyson quote: 'Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face'.
"Come a week on Saturday against Bristol, I suspect someone might punch me in the face but I can cope with stuff under pressure now that things on and off the field are rosy."