Growing up in St Lucia, Marland Yarde was unaware that rugby existed even after emigrating to London at the age of nine. It was an unknown concept at his primary school in Notting Hill but he was curious enough to watch England play Australia on television in the 2003 RWC final when he was 11. Three years later, he picked up the ball at Gunnersbury Boys Catholic School and realised he could run past everyone else. Marland said: “I instantly started playing for my school. Then I was picked for my county, London & South-East and the England U16 team. I think they liked my raw speed and saw the rest as a work in progress.”
Pace and finishing power are his unmistakable attributes, along with his homing instinct for the opposing line. His latest top level tries were in the second and third Test matches against New Zealand at Dunedin and Hamilton in June 2014 and others against Wales last May after an 18-month absence and against Australia in Brisbane in the first Test a fortnight later. He also pounced on a perfectly weighted kick from Jonathan Joseph to make a well-taken touchdown against Australia at Twickenham in November.
He began with one against both Ireland and Scotland in the 2011 U20 Six Nations Championship. A hat-trick followed against Scotland in the 2012 match at Firhill, Glasgow, followed by a touchdown against Wales. Marland then took his total in that tournament to five with one in the final game against Ireland at Adams Park. The opening match against Italy in the 2012 IRB Junior World Championship against Italy brought him two more touchdowns.
Marland, who was born in Castries, also ran in a try on his competitive debut for the Exiles against Sale Sharks in the LV= Cup in November 2010 and his dual registration with London Welsh swiftly yielded two more tries for them in his initial two Championship matches. The first of his 40 Premiership appearances that produced 13 tries for Irish was for the full 80 minutes against Harlequins at Twickenham in September 2011.
His first hat-trick of tries in the competition was in his penultimate game for the club against Gloucester at Kingsholm in May 2014. He joined Harlequins for the 2014/15 season, scored two tries against London Welsh in his fifth Premiership appearance for them and ran in eight tries in 19 games in his debut campaign. His overall Premiership record by early December was 25 tries in 83 matches.
He said: “I love scoring tries and celebrate each one as though it could be my last. I had a memorable week a few years ago with three on a Wednesday in the Daily Mail Cup final and four against Scotland for England U18 two days later.”
Whitgift beat RGS Newcastle 34-10 in that final at Twickenham and in the last eight rounds, he plundered 21 tries, including five in the 57-8 quarter-final win over Bishop’s Stortford HS, four against Reigate GS when Whitgift triumphed 61-15 and three in the 54-0 success over Eastbourne College.
He is a former pupil at Gunnersbury Boys Catholic School and Whitgift and graduated to the London Irish Academy after playing mini-youth rugby at Sunbury-on-Thames with London Irish Amateurs and in December 2009 helped England U18 to beat Australia 30-28 at Sale.
His next game against France at Newbury produced two tries in a seven-minute spell after half-time, the second of which was ten minutes from the end as England romped to a 33-16 win. He also started against Wales at Swansea in late March 2010 and plundered six in his five England U18 matches overall.
Marland, who missed the U18 tour for a four-team tournament in South Africa in the summer of 2010 because of a shoulder injury, had long been on England’s radar, playing for the U16A team in the 2008 Millfield International Festival. He appeared in the side that lost 33-25 to France at Tor RFC near Glastonbury, when figuring alongside former U18 squad mates Ben Ransom, Sam Northcote-Green, Will Skuse, Koree Britton and Ryan Mills.
He impressed subsequently for London & South East in the 2009 U18 Divisional Festival in the Midlands, picking up tries along the way to his England appearances at that level. Marland added: “London Irish Academy coaches Neal Hatley and Justin Bishop were a great help to me as was Mike Catt, especially in the kicking department.”
He had a brief spell with Queen’s Park Rangers FC, captained Middlesex U16 at football and on the rugby front most admires William Ryder and Joe Rokocoko – both players with pace, panache and ambition.
35 points – 7T
2013 Arg (2), A 2014 NZ(1,2,3), Sam(R), A(R) 2016 W, A(1), SA, A
Last updated: 4 December 2016