England’s rugby stars have been enjoying their downtime at the World Cup by playing a game of football tennis.
Steve Borthwick’s men have started the tournament with two wins from two, but were made to work hard on Sunday by Japan before pulling clear late on.
A decisive moment in the match came midway through the second half when England led by just a single point at 13-12. George Ford’s pass slipped through Will Stuart’s hands before hitting Joe Marler on the head and dropping to Courtney Lawes who picked the ball up and dotted down.
The try stood, with Marler and Co all seeing the funny side after benefitting from an enormous stroke of luck.
Marler cheekily claimed he had meant the assist, and that he had been inspired by Brighton’s win over Manchester United at Old Trafford the previous day, while he also compared his header to Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous goal for Juventus against Sampdoria.
Joe Marler recorded an assist by heading the ball in England’s win against Japan
England have been playing football tennis, with Ellis Genge (right) practicing his headers
Owen Farrell (pictured) also tried his luck with a header during the game in training
The players have been enjoying their downtime after winning their first two World Cup games
Whether Marler meant it or not, it proved to be vital in securing England a bonus-point win, and the rest of the team now also seem to be getting in on the act by practicing their own headers.
The squad took to the tennis courts at their training base in Le Touquet, with Marler’s fellow prop Ellis Genge not holding back as he connected with a header.
Captain Owen Farrell followed suit, and the 31-year-old is primed for his first start of the tournament against Chile on Saturday after serving his four-match suspension.
England were booed at times for their excessive kicking during their 34-12 victory against Japan, but have made it clear they intend to keep putting boot to ball.
That applies to kicking a football about as well, as fly-half George Ford showed his deft touch when clipping a volley back over the net.
Farrell was seen enjoying himself, and is set to make his first appearance of the tournament this weekend
Genge was also all smiles as he eyes a recall after starting the Japan clash on the bench
George Ford has been England’s player of the tournament so far, and showed off his football skills during the match
Ford has claimed the player of the match award in England’s first two games, and is putting his case forward to stay in the team ahead of Farrell in the No 10 position.
England have demonstrated their competitiveness and resilience on the pitch at the World Cup, grinding out an impressive 27-10 win over Argentina in their first game despite playing with 14 men for 77 minutes after Tom Curry’s early red card.
They did not seem to be taking football tennis quite so seriously, with Farrell and Genge both pictured laughing throughout the contest, although hooker Jamie George could not resist celebrating when his side won a point as he raised his fist to the sidelines.
For now, it is all smiles in the England camp, and they will be looking to continue to build momentum against Chile this weekend to all-but seal their place in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Jamie George celebrates winning a point with a smile and a clenched fist