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Marler ready to face Ross

Joe Marler is ready to tackle Ireland prop Mike Ross having shaved off the beard that drew criticism from former England coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Marler sported a bushy beard in England's 38-18 victory over Scotland, having initially told his partner on New Year's Eve that he would grow one for 88 days. Woodward scalded Marler for his hirsute look, saying: "You do not see Olympic 100 metres runners or Tour de France cyclists with beards. Rugby at the top level is a fast, athletic, power game. The same rules apply."

Marler, who has responded by trimming the beard to stubble, said: "I haven't got a beard any more and have a bit of stubble because it apparently makes you go faster. So, we will see on Sunday whether I will be skinning Brian O'Driscoll on the outside. It's unlikely."

He added: "Clive is entitled to his opinion. If I am scoring a try from 50 metres out and skinning everyone, maybe he has got a point!"

Harlequins star Marler impressed against Scotland, slotting neatly into England's more expansive new style and providing a nice pass to Joe Launchbury that led to Chris Ashton's try.

"It's the brand of rugby Quins have been trying to do for a while and it's starting to pay off," he said.

"And coming into this environment it's not much different. It's the positive way we want to play rugby."

Marler was in the Harlequins academy when Ross, now the Ireland tight-head prop, was in the first team.

"I know he's turned into a pretty reliable and tough scrummager for Ireland through playing week-in, week-out for Leinster," Marler said.

"It will be a really big test."


From Belfast Telegraph