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Marler out to avoid a close shave with Ross

Joe Marler is ready to tackle Ireland's "pastry chef" 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 has responded by trimming the beard to stubble – but he laughed off the idea he would suddenly be too quick for Ireland to handle in Sunday's game.

"I haven't got a beard any more and have a bit of stubble because it apparently makes you go faster," Marler said.

"So, we will see on Sunday whether I will be skinning Brian O'Driscoll on the outside. It's unlikely. 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 has always caught the headlines for his appearance, having sported a multi-coloured Mohican hair-cut before deciding to grow his beard.

But he would much rather be known for his rugby.

Ross was nick-named the pastry chef by Nick Easter, although the hierarchy at Harlequins meant Marler never deigned to call him that.

"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. There are a lot of tight-heads out there who are pretty wide. He's no different."

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