Joe Marler urges Lions to take mental health specialist on South Africa tour

Joe Marler says the Lions should take a trained mental health expert on tour to help players deal with up to 10 weeks in a bubble.

The England prop admits he is unsure he would have been able to cope with the monastic existence awaiting the tourists.

And he believes taking an extra member of staff “qualified in the clinical side of mental health” would be a “very good” idea.

Marler said: “Lions tours are tough enough as they are, being away from your families, but this one is particularly hard.

“If they’re not going to take someone qualified, they definitely need to have a conversation as a whole touring party at the start.”

Lions boss Warren Gatland has acknowledged that keeping the players happy off the field is key to success on it.

He could do worse than compare notes with Marler, who has withdrawn from two England campaigns for personal reasons and this week fronts a documentary examining mental health especially amongst young men.

“By its nature of machoism, aggression, alpha male, the environment around a rugby team makes discussing individual problems difficult,” said the Harlequin.

“The whole point is to invade the opposition’s space in any way you can. And usually that involves physicality and trying to bully them.

“Being constantly involved in an environment full of men trying to be alpha males on and off the field, you’re going to think twice about wanting to discuss your feelings or any problems that are going on in your life.

“I suspect there are a number of boys that have been suffering and not wanting to talk about it.”

His documentary Big Boys Don’t Cry follows his travels around the UK gaining insights into how others manage their mental wellbeing.


His belief that the situation is slowly improving in rugby was supported by Kyle Sinckler’s openly emotional reaction to his shock Lions omission – and the positive reaction to it.

"It has been so tough,” said Sinckler, choking up, after his man of the match display in Bristol’s win at Bath on Saturday.

"Right now it doesn't make sense. I have never experienced something like this in my career.

“It has been tough, but I wanted to show the kids, and everyone at home, how much it means to me and not throw my toys out of the pram.

“I wanted to use that anger. I have never had so much anger inside me and I used it in a positive way to do what is best for the team.”

His BT Sport interview had more than a million social media views in 24 hours, drawing sympathy and praise in equal measure.

Watch Joe Marler in Big Boys Don’t Cry on Sky Sports Arena and NOW at 4pm on Wednesday and throughout the week on multiple Sky Sports channels


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