Marler on course for France opener

10:05 AM GMT

England coach Eddie Jones has backed Joe Marler to fill the void left by the injured Mako Vunipola in the Six Nations — as the Harlequins prop nears a remarkable recovery from a fractured leg suffered earlier this month.

The 26-year-old had initially targeted a five-week return from the leg injury sustained on Jan. 10 — but after rigorous rehabilitation he is ahead of schedule, and poised to return to full training on Monday when England assemble at their training base at the Pennyhill Park Hotel, Surrey.

England host France in their Championship opener on Feb. 4 at Twickenham.

The rise of Mako Vunipola has seen Marler left on the bench for his last five Tests, but Jones believes the loosehead is more than capable of excelling as the first choice having done so when he first burst onto the scene in 2012.

Marler’s last start for England came in March last year against Wales, a game in which he crossed the disciplinary line; he was handed a two-week ban and a £20,000 fine for calling Wales prop Samson Lee a “gipsy boy” following the 25-21 win.

“If you go back to before he [Marler] had his incident with Wales he would have been the form loosehead in the Six Nations,” Jones told The Telegraph.

“He has come back — he looks fresh, he looks committed, he looks mentally on song so he is ready to go. I am pretty positive [he will be fit].”

Marler voluntarily withdrew from England’s Test series win over Australia last June to improve his ’emotional control’, and Jones insists he has come back rejuvenated with a new sense of responsibility.

“He has just matured,” Jones added. “When something happens to you like that, when you have a child or have something significant in your life, you learn from that.

“Again he is one these guys that leads from the shadows. He is great in the background, giving advice.

“He has been like a father figure to [Kyle] Sinckler [the Harlequins and England prop], really helps him a lot, and those sorts of guys are invaluable.

“He is playing that role more and more and no one is asking him to do it – he does it off his own bat.”

England will name their team to face France on Thursday.

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