Why was Courtney Lawes’ try for England allowed to stand against Japan at the Rugby World Cup?

England scored one of the most comical tries in Rugby World Cup history during their match against Japan as Joe Marler unknowingly claimed an assist with his head.

During the second half of the Pool D clash in Nice, with England narrowly leading 13-12, they received a huge stroke of fortune when George Ford’s pass went backwards off the hands of Will Stuart, clattered off the head of the unwitting Marler and Courtney Lawes almost embarrassedly scooped the ball up to score the try.

In rugby, if the ball goes forward off a player’s hands or arm, it is a knock-on and a scrum to the opposition but off any other part of the body – including the head or face – and it’s a legal play.

The ludicrous nature of the try was fitting for an error-strewn match in which both sides struggled to execute basic skills, consistently knocking on or dropping the ball.

The subsequent conversion took the score from 13-12 to 20-12 and England would pull further away from their opponents in the closing stages of the match

The try provoked a mixture of delight and derision on social media and beyond, with ITV co-commentator and former England international Ben Kay jokingly calling it “Joe Marler’s greatest ever assist” in commentary at the time.

ITV rugby presenter Mark Pougatch took to Twitter/X to write “Joe Marler headed that down like a 1970s Fourth Division centre forward.”

Meanwhile, ex England fly half and current podcaster Andy Goode wrote: “Comedy try but we’ll take it! Off the nut and Marler with assist.”

Even the official Rugby World Cup account got in on the action, saying “Joe Marler’s mohawk has just recorded an assist for a try” in reference to the prop’s hairstyle


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