England have now entered a new four-year World Cup cycle, after taking bronze medals home from France. Steve Borthwick’s side turn their long term plans to the 2027 Rugby World Cup, with some fresh faces expected in the front row, ahead of the trip to Australia.
Located just a stone’s throw away from Twickenham Stadium, Harlequins seem to have the answers for Borthwick’s long term plans. There are numerous promising front row talents plying their trade at the Stoop, who have been learning from the most experienced of England internationals.
Joe Marler did not let up on his return from England duties, coming straight back in to his club after the Rugby World Cup, to mentor the young front rowers. Harlequins’ newly appointed Coaching Coordinator Danny Wilson praised Marler’s tutelage, in bringing through the likes of young loose-head prop Fin Baxter and hooker Nathan Jibulu.
“The first session, he came back to the club, which is obviously my first sessions with him, I was really impressed. Not just with Fin (Baxter) but with a lot of the younger players, how he coaches them, how he mentors them.
“You know, he’s willing to pass on really relevant, good information. I overheard him speaking to Nathan Jibulu, at one point, and I thought, ‘How good is that, how valuable is that’, that he can pass on that type of experience and some of those learnings to our younger players. So not just Fin, but others as well.”
At 33-years-old, Marler could well be coming to the latter stages of his international career, and has previously hinted to be hanging up the test match boots for his career in the red rose. During the Summer Nations Series win over Wales ahead of the Rugby World Cup, Marler’s interaction with a fan went viral after the prop kept his England jersey, in what he thought would be his last start at Twickenham.
Despite possibly leaving the international scene, Marler has plenty of gas left in the tank for Harlequins. The loose-head prop did not take a break after the Rugby World Cup, and ran out in Quins’ victories over Newcastle and Leicester Tigers. Marler is set for his 200th Premiership appearance this Saturday, as Quins host Saracens for a hotly anticipated London derby at the Stoop.
“It’s a phenomenal milestone, isn’t it?” Wilson added. “You know, I think, his service to Quins, and what he’s done here at the club has been second to none. He’s obviously done some great work on the international front, as well. I thought his game against South Africa, for me, I thought he was outstanding, proved what he could still do.
“And since he’s been back here, he’s been really motivated. He’s trained well. He’s been great for me in terms of having another leader, another experienced guy in the environment. So yeah, long may it continue. And, the milestone that he’s close to achieving now is special, and should be celebrated.”
Harlequins hooker Jack Walker was also called-up for England’s Rugby World Cup campaign, however the 27-year-old only featured for 26 minutes in France. Walker’s sole appearence came in a pool stage walkover, as he came off the bench in the 71-0 win against Chile. Despite not accruing the on-field minutes he would have sort after, Danny Wilson can see Walker bringing valuable England camp experience back to Harlequins, that benefits the front row as a collective.
“I think having the experience first of all, being in that environment, and getting some exposure (is good). But training day in day out at that level, and understanding what it is to be and play at that level. Because international rugby, no doubt about it especially at a World Cup, is a big step up. So that would have done him the world of good.
“Again, he’s another player who’s come back and fitted in really nicely. Knowledgeable professional, very keen on getting his detail right. He’s another good example to others, it’s great to have him back along with others. But you know, probably the same point to Fin Baxter. I mean, with Sam Riley playing as well as he’s played, Nathan Jibulu, playing as well as he’s played, all of a sudden we start to build a bit of depth.
“To go on and be successful in in the short term, and more importantly, the long term, you need to be able to build that depth. So, having him back and having two guys underneath him if you like, when he left, playing as well as they did, It’s great for us. Great for Harlequins.”
England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning hooker Steve Thompson, has previously spoken to RUCK about how England are due a front row upgrade. Should Steve Borthwick look to the future throughout the upcoming Six Nations and reported Summer Tour to New Zealand, then the Quins stars could soon get the nod for an international debut. The likes of Sam Riley, Fin Baxter and Nathan Jibulu are on the right trajectory, with Danny Wilson excited for the future prospects of his Harlequins front rowers.
“Definitely, I think there’s some really exciting talent there that if we do our jobs, and they do their job in terms of buying into the work ethic that we need them to, I think they’ll really challenge for international honors, and again, that’s great, isn’t it? You know, I think that’s got to be the aim for all of us. And we’ll be really excited if we can get a couple of those guys through.”
However, after looking to the future, Wilson turned his attention to the noisy neighbours on Harlequins’ doorstep. Saracens make the trip down from North London for this weekend’s derby in the capital, with the reigning champions enjoying a re-found form with back-to-back wins. Likewise, Harlequins currently sit at the top of the Premiership with four wins in five games, with the latest quartet of victories coming in a row. However, Wilson believes that the match can go either way this Saturday.
“It is a cliche, I know, but any given weekend, it’s game day. What went last week for them and us has gone. I think there’ll be a number of players they rested last week, that they’ll play this week, and without those players they won by 50 points away from home (against Newcastle).
“So, they’re (Saracens) certainly starting to show that reason again why they’re the champions, and for us to get a crack at the champions is brilliant. But every week is a different week, and we’ve won like you said four on the bounce, which is brilliant fantastic, but it means nothing going into a game like a derby.
You know from my all my experiences of derbies, I’ve gone into derbies on winning form and lost, and I’ve gone into derbies on losing form and won. They’re different, and I for me for my first experience of a derby, at this club, but I’m looking forward to it.