Milk, sea air and Phil Pask – the secret behind Marler's recovery

Joe Marler puts his rapid recovery from a broken leg down to two pints of full fat milk a day, the work of England physio Phil Pask and potentially the healing powers of East Sussex’s sea air.

The loose-head was named in England’s starting XV for Saturday’s Test against France after it originally looked like he was going to miss their first two matches of the Six Nations.

His recovery has been remarkable given he is back scrummaging and in the Test team less than three weeks after the original prognosis put his return at over a month. Marler fractured his leg against Worcester on Jan. 1, but the diagnosis was only confirmed after he pulled up in the warm-up prior to their match against Sale on Jan. 7.

“I rehabbed the crap out of it to be honest and drank lots of milk,” Marler said. “And that’s it, my body has taken care of the rest.”

When Marler originally heard the results of the scan on his broken leg, he thought it was a joke given he had been jogging. But then came the x-ray and Marler –who was lined up to be first-choice in this championship due to the injury to Mako Vunipola — thought he was going to miss his chance in the Six Nations.

England coach Eddie Jones put Marler’s recovery in part down to the sea air in close proximity to the prop’s house, but he believes milk played a role alongside the work of experienced senior physiotherapist Pask.

“Your mum or whoever says milk is really good for you and you don’t really believe it until you really need it because you’ve got a broken leg, apparently, so I just drank loads of that,” Marler said. “I’m not putting it all on that, I’m putting it on Pask as well but yeah, it’s helped, I think.

“[It was] Just two pints of milk a day, I think it’s something I’ll keep doing because it’s really tasty and I always thought green top was good for you because it’s reduced fat but they gave me licence to have blue top and the odd day I’d have that gold top stuff, the one with like 1,000 calories in one. Maybe I won’t carry on with that but blue top, it’s been really good for me.”

Marler was reluctant to turn to a hyperbaric chamber to accelerate his recovery due to his claustrophobia but the cocktail of milk and expert physio worked and we was back live scrummaging in Portugal last Friday, just 18 days after the prognosis.

“I don’t think there was ever a doubt he was going to play,” England coach Jones said. “The initial diagnosis was three or four weeks. He wants to play.

“He does all the right things and lives by the sea in Brighton. That also helps. I really think it does. There are studies to show that the sea air and sea water helps you recuperate better.”

Marler’s task on Saturday does not come much bigger. He faces the monster French tight-head Uini Atonio — who tips the scales at 155 kilogrammes, with their pack weighing in at 936 kilos — and Marler knows full well the magnitude of the challenge he faces.

“You have to push harder than him and take the weight,” Marler said. “Last season’s game against him [the Grand Slam decider in Paris] was the first time I’ve come up against him and there’s some weight there, a lot of weight.”

For Marler, Saturday’s Test will be the first England game he has started since last March against Wales and back to full fitness, he is relishing the chance to test the healing powers of milk against the French front-row.

“It’s going to be brilliant,” Marler said. “What do you lot call it? Le Crunch? Is that French? I’m very much looking forward to it.

“We’ve had a very good year as a team and as a squad. We’ve had some good results, but we’ve worked even harder over these last two weeks and have prepared well. We don’t know what the French will bring on Saturday, they’ve been together for two weeks as well. They haven’t that before. It will be a great Test.”