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England's Marler appoints himself unlikely champion of Japanese culture

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By Reuters
England's Marler appoints himself unlikely champion of Japanese culture
Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup warm-up match - England v Italy - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - September 6, 2019 England's Joe Marler during the warm up before the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes/Files   -   Copyright  ED SYKES(Reuters)

By Jack Tarrant

TOKYO (Reuters) – During a bizarre news conference in Tokyo on Monday, England prop Joe Marler took it upon himself to make sure the visiting journalists were familiar with Japan’s bathing etiquette.

Instead of discussing the upcoming match against Argentina, Marler seemed more interested in making sure the British journalists respected the rules when entering an onsen, traditional Japanese baths.

Onsens are regularly found in Japanese hotels and users are expected to bathe together fully naked.

Following England’s 45-7 thrashing of the United States, the players and journalists found themselves sharing a bath in Kobe.

“Apparently you lot have offended the Japanese culture,” joked Marler.

“You are not supposed to wear shorts in the onsen,” chimed in team mate Ellis Genge.

“It says specifically no shorts,” stressed Marler. “I went in a vest, a rash vest, to cover my tats and socks, but nothing here (pointing to his lower half) because I didn’t want to offend them and yet you are swanning about the place in swim shorts. Ridiculous.”

Last December, World Rugby advised both players and supporters to cover up tattoos and respect Japanese etiquette during the tournament.

After the exchange, which was conducted in a light-hearted spirit but did seem to confuse the Japanese journalists present and in particular England’s beleaguered translator, Marler turned his attention to Saturday’s match against Argentina.

The match could come down to whichever team wins at scrum time and Marler might come up against Pumas prop Enrique Pieretto.

When the two teams met in a fiery 2016 encounter, Pieretto was sent off for stamping on Marler’s head. The Englishman received a yellow card for his part in that incident.

“I wouldn’t say they are niggly. They are just an extremely passionate nation and I guess so are we. So it just gets a bit heated like that,” said Marler.

“He did stamp on my head because I held onto his leg so it was my own fault.”

“But you can’t stamp on people anymore and that was the right call. It was also the right call for me to get yellowed,” Marler added before returning to his favourite theme of the day.

“You really had the chance to ask a proper question, you were the last one and you wasted it with that. You need to stop wearing shorts in the onsen,” he said.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)