Quins boss Kingston salutes Marler bravery
Joe Marler's resilience in battling through an injury-afflicted season was praised by Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston after Tuesday's 28-24 Aviva Premiership victory over Gloucester.
The England prop repeatedly needed medical attention in Quins' annual Christmas fixture at Twickenham, but gritted his teeth to finish a league match for the first time since the start of the campaign.
England can ill-afford to see Marler added to their injury list, with first choice loosehead Mako Vunipola a doubt for the RBS 6 Nations because of a knee problem, but Kingston insisted he remains in better shape than he has ever seen him.
"I think he got a stamp on his calf to start with and he was worried that it was going to stiffen up," Kingston said
"At half-time he was on the bike while we were talking to the players, so that he could get the mobility going. I think he then got a bang on the ankle, on the other leg, so he was in the wars really.
"He's had that sort of a season, Joe. He played 80 minutes against Gloucester and he has only got through 80 twice for us so far this season. He's unbelievably fit, so it's just good for him to get some game-time.
"He got fitter over the summer than I've ever seen him, having made the decision not to tour with England.
"He came back incredibly fit, but he has just had one annoying injury after another. It started with his thumb.
"He came into the first game here against Bristol and he was only just about fit. A less brave man wouldn't have played.
"Other things have taken over ,but they've all been niggles. I remember him having a back spasm at the club one day and that cost him a week or two.
"He made a joke about it a month ago. He said, 'The problem is, I'm too blooming fit. Ever since I've got myself so fit, I seem to have been picking up niggles all over the place'.
"Picking up niggles again against Gloucester wouldn't have been what he wanted, but he has certainly started to play well. We have been challenging him to carry more ball."
Gloucester trailed 28-10 on the hour mark, but threatened to seize an unlikely victory when Gareth Evans and Motu Matu'u scored converted tries.
A late drive for the match-winning try was foiled when Willi Heinz had the ball kicked out his hands by a prone Ruaridh Jackson, before Danny Care intercepted from an offside position.
Both offences were worthy of a yellow card and a penalty under the posts but Quins - who already had Jack Clifford in the sin-bin - went unpunished by referee JP Dolye.
"The moment when the ball is kicked out of Willi Heinz's hand on the ground which stopped our momentum a little bit would be our major concern," Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys said.
"The referee said he didn't see it. The TMO in that situation is looking for incidents of foul play and can't get involved in what is a penalty offence.
"It's one of those decisions - I certainly saw it and you hope the referee saw it as well.
"In every game decisions go for you and against you. What you're hoping is that high impact decisions go the right way.
"No matter what anybody says, you need a little bit of luck in the game and we just haven't had it in those big games away from home."