We should do a normal, cliche-full, politically correct interview for a change,’ says Joe Marler in a brief WhatsApp exchange, while finalising a time to meet at the local Starbucks.
He arrives on time, as planned, yet an hour in his company is anything but normal.
‘You been watching The Witcher?’ he says, plonking his iPad on the table.
Joe Marler is gearing up to try and help England win the upcoming Six Nations tournament
The plan was to discuss the prop’s second coming in an England shirt. After half an hour or so, conversation does eventually turn to rugby, but not before a discussion on the ethics of fast food and the painful loss of his dog.
‘A company approach you, and you say “yes” or “no”,’ says Marler, bluntly, when the photographer asks how he ended up starring in a recent McDonald’s advert.
‘You make a decision based on your moral compass and whether or not it pays for your mortgage.
‘It was a hard decision with my wife, Daisy, because we’re quite particular on how we bring up our children. Funnily enough, most parents are — but not all.
‘Have you seen that program? Feral Family? Channel 4? They eat what they want, go to bed when they want, do what they want. It’s f****** carnage.
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‘We teach ours to love veg and things like that. They’d never had a McDonald’s until their nana took them out for the day and treated them to some chips. She said, “This is our secret… don’t tell mummy and daddy”.
‘When they get back, the first thing that comes out of Jasper’s mouth is, “Guess what we had for lunch? McDuckDonalds!” When I told Daisy that I might do this gig for McDonald’s she said, “Do you think it’s a good thing to be promoting chips?” I told her you don’t have to eat chips every day… just on Free Fries Friday.
‘I said there is an alternative: I can quit rugby and all the other work to become a stay-at-home dad. She said, “No, it’s fine, you crack on with the advert”. Anyway, what do you want?’
The first subject of the interview is 2019. Twelve months ago, Marler was writing his first punditry column in The Mail on Sunday, having retired from international rugby. He reversed that decision in the summer and ended up playing for England in the World Cup final. So how does he reflect on the year?
‘A pretty s*** year,’ he says. ‘Not least because we lost one of our dogs. We didn’t really want to do Christmas but you have to when you’ve got kids. You can’t let them go into school and tell their mates, “Oh, we didn’t do Christmas”.
Marler admits he thought hard before agreeing to star in a recent advert for McDonald’s Fries
‘Then we lost another dog, Rufio, in the new year. He was eight. I drove out to the vets at 1am. I don’t think I’ve ever wailed so hard. I was balling my eyes out for the next 12 hours. Wait, is this a f****** counselling session?’
What about the rugby? ‘From a professional basis, it was one of the best times I’ve had. Watching England play Ireland in the first game of the Six Nations, proud as punch, gave me the itch — not crabs… a metaphorical itch.
‘I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to go to the World Cup and experience Japan and all its wonders. Asides from the final, which was s***, I loved it.’
Did Marler struggle to pick himself up? ‘It was really difficult, yeah. I found the first two weeks a combination of elation about being home with the kids — meeting my third born — and a feeling of lostness. You look around thinking, “Is that it? What next?” You’re in the wilderness but then you get back to your club, get back into the groove and throw out a load of cliches. All about the next game, isn’t it?’
‘If we’d won the final, we’d have spent ages getting p****d and then that lostness would