England prop Joe Marler can always be counted on for a good laugh, and he did not disappoint after his side’s victory over Japan in the Rugby World Cup Pool D fixture on Sunday.
Steve Borthwick’s side marched to a 34-12 victory over the Brave Blossoms in their second World Cup 2023 match, with Lewis Ludlam, Courtney Lawes, Freddie Steward and Joe Marchant all crossing the whitewash.
Inspired by the mighty Seagulls
Lawes’ try was particularly interesting, with the stand-in captain benefitting from an awkward passage of play as prop Marler headered the ball forward and the back-rower pounced to score.
Because the ball came off Marler’s head, it was not a knock-on, and Lawes was sharp enough to identify this and grab the five-pointer.
During the match, commentator Ben Kay described his ‘header’ for Courtney Lawes’ try as the best try assist of his career.
“It’s my only assist, isn’t it?” Marler said in an interview after the match. “I mean, I also haven’t ever scored a try. I hold the English record for most caps without a try.”
“I had no idea, if I’m honest [if it was a try or not], I didn’t know where I was. But it was planned. I’ve been practising my headers in activation with Dan Cole and Jamie George.”
He jokingly added: “I took a lot of inspiration from the mighty Seagulls – Brighton and Hove Albion – doing a demolition job on [Manchester] United, my son’s team [Brighton beat United 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday].
“So I took inspiration from them and brought it into tonight’s game, and I just found a way.”
"I take huge inspiration from Roberto De Zerbi and his mighty Seagulls who did a demolition job on United yesterday" 😂
Joe Marler joked he took inspiration from Brighton for his bizarre headed assist in England's victory over Japan at the Rugby World Cup 🏉 pic.twitter.com/UkJ5De1J9Y
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) September 18, 2023
Commenting on the fortuitous assist, Lawes said: “It was a good bit of luck for us in these conditions. I saw it ricochet off his head.
“I was pretty sure it had gone backwards and then came off his head. I had a good idea it was going to get given.”
He added that he “thanked” Marler and that it was “a bit of luck – sometimes it falls in your favour.”
The result was a crucial one for England as they moved top of Pool D.
They now stand a strong chance of proceeding to the knockouts with clashes against Chile and Samoa rounding off laying ahead.
Marler said that England knew Japan were never going to give in and that they had to grind away to secure the win.
“Once we actually managed to keep hold of the ball and not drop it, we were able to build some more pressure,” he said.
“But we knew that Japan would never give up. They live by their name of, the Brave Blossoms. They just keep going.”