London – England prop Joe Marler has retired from international duty to spend more time with his family.
Marler, who won 59 England caps, will continue to play for his English Premiership club, Harlequins.
The 28-year-old’s decision will be a big blow to England coach Eddie Jones just a year out from the World Cup in Japan.
Although Marler is currently England’s preferred back-up loosehead to Mako Vunipola, he remained a key part of Jones’s plans and could have expected to be involved in this season’s autumn Test schedule.
England are due to play world champions New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Japan at Twickenham in November.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to represent my country, and of course this has been a very difficult decision to make, but I have decided to retire from playing international rugby with immediate effect to spend more time with my family,” Marler said in a statement issued by London club Harlequins on Wednesday.
“It is an incredible commitment to play rugby for England, and I strongly believe that if you are unable to give yourself fully to it then it is time to step away.
“Otherwise it would not be fair on the team, or my family. Being with England you have to spend an incredible amount of time away, and I could not do that any more.”
He added: “So now is the time to walk away and get some new blood in the team. And I am looking forward to being able to give my wife and children more of my time.
“I would like to thank everyone at England for the opportunities that I have been given. I will always be grateful for the memories playing for my country has given me.”
Marler had a six-year international career, making his first and last England appearances against South Africa in 2012 and 2018.
He also toured New Zealand last year with the British and Irish Lions.
Marler withdrew from a three-day England training camp in Bristol earlier this week, citing “personal reasons”.
He also pulled out of England’s 2016 tour of Australia, saying he was not in the correct frame of mind to play Test rugby.
Two years ago Marler received a two-week ban and £20 000 fine for calling Wales prop Samson Lee “gypsy boy” during a Six Nations international at Twickenham.
His first match back for Harlequins saw Marler cited for kicking Grenoble forward Arnaud Heguy in a European Challenge Cup fixture, an offence for which he received another two-week suspension.
Marler was also suspended for two Tests during last year’s autumn series. Then, in January, he was given a further six-week ban for a dangerous clear-out of a ruck and missed England’s first two Six Nations matches.
Nevertheless England boss Jones, quoted in Harlequins’ statement, said: “Joe is a great player and team member, so I am disappointed and we will miss him. But he has made his decision on personal grounds and we understand his reasoning.”
The Australian added: “He’s a good guy – an honest, mature person who understands the demands of the game and the demands of family life.
“I have got to admire his honesty and the way he has gone about this,” the former Australia and Japan coach added.