Lawes says: ‘even I didn’t know the offside law’ after All Blacks loss
England star Courtney Lawes admits: ‘Even I didn’t know the offside law’ after Sam Underhill’s disallowed try cost Eddie Jones’ men famous win
- Courtney Lawes admitted he was unclear on the offside law after All Blacks loss
- Sam Underhill’s super finish four minutes from the end was disallowed for offside
- Lawes was offside before charging down a kick to set up a late try for England
- He said: ‘I thought I was onside. I don’t know exactly what the offside line is.’
- The decision has polarised opinion, even former referees were split in their views
Rugby Union was divided yet again on Sunday night by contentious officiating as England tried to come to terms with the decision to disallow a try which would have brought a famous win over the All Blacks.
Bath flanker Sam Underhill touched down four minutes from the end of an epic Test at Twickenham. But the score was disallowed following a video referral that ruled Courtney Lawes was offside before charging down TJ Perenara’s kick to set up the try.
Lawes admitted he was unclear on the rule. ‘In the moment I thought, “I am onside here, I’m going to charge it down”,’ he said. ‘I don’t know exactly what the offside line is.’
Courtney Lawes has admitted he was unclear on the offside rule after the All Blacks loss
The decision has polarised opinion in the game. Even former referees were split in their views.
Every aspect of this complex area has been the subject of review and amendment, so it is no surprise this decision has been fiercely disputed.
South African TMO Marius Jonker made the ruling, telling French referee Jerome Garces to reverse his on-field decision.
Sam Underhill touched down four minutes from the end but it was disallowed for offside
Lawes was offside before charging down TJ Perenara’s kick to set up England’s late try
That is despite an edict released by World Rugby just last week declaring that TMOs must offer guidance but allow the referees to make the final call, and that decisions must only be overturned when there is ‘CLEAR and OBVIOUS’ evidence (the words were capitalized for emphasis) that an incorrect decision has been made.
In this instance, any evidence is marginal, so England have every right to believe that their hopes of victory were wrecked by a breach of protocol in terms of the TMO over-stepping the mark.
Head coach Eddie Jones stopped short of a public protest, but said: ‘The players thought it was a try, but we are happy to follow what the TMO says.’ Speaking to the BBC, he added: ‘It’s difficult to swallow, but you have to and you have to respect the referee. That is enormously important. I was really proud of our players. They just got on with it and tried to win the game again.
New Zealand scrum-half TJ Perenara (right) has his hands on the ball at the back of the ruck, before picking it up to make it live. Courtney Lawes (No 20) is onside as he is behind the hindmost part of George Ford (floored), who represents the offside line.
At the front of the ruck, All Black prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi moves his left foot forward at the precise moment Perenara (right) picks up the ball. This moves the offside line forward half a stride, and puts Lawes (No 20) in an offside position that means the try is ruled out.
ECONOMICS STUDENT TO STAR ROLE
Sam Underhill began his career at Gloucester, making his debut at just 17, but moved to Wales to study economics at Cardiff University — and made his name as a tough-tackling star in the Pro14 for Ospreys. He would have qualified to play for Wales, but opted for England after signing for Bath in January 2017.
He made his Test debut in Argentina when England toured there in summer 2017.
He was born in the USA as his father was based there as an officer in the Royal Air Force.
Underhill’s early stint back in England was blighted by head injuries, and he suffered two concussions last season.
When Bath’s director of rugby Todd Blackadder signed Underhill, he likened him to double World Cup-winning All Black Richie McCaw.
‘It’s a real tribute to their character and how they respect the values of the game. We don’t challenge the referee on decisions and we don’t abuse him after the game.’
Underhill, the England flanker whose brilliant finish turned out to have been in vain, added: ‘It’s tough to take but it was marginal and that’s the game. Ultimately, the ref’s decision is final. If he says the grass is pink then the grass is pink.’
But New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said: ‘There was no doubt he’s offside. He’s just about in the half-back’s back pocket. What was going through my mind was, ‘Are they going to be brave enough to make the right decision?’. They were.’
His captain, Kieran Read, added: ‘As soon as I saw it on the big screen, I thought it would be our penalty.’
Meanwhile, England intend to harness their sense of injustice by subjecting Japan to a backlash when they face them on Saturday.
Jones said: ‘We want to smash them, physically smash them, because I know they’re going to come full of confidence.
‘I’ve heard some of the things they’ve said, they’ve been a bit cheeky so they better look out.’ Asked what advice he could give the side that he used to coach, Jones said: ‘Go to the temple and pray. We’re going to be absolutely ruthless. They’re a really well-coached side, Japan. We’re taking it seriously and that’s why we have to be absolutely ruthless.’
Underhill, who played superbly on Saturday, said it was a tough to take but the decision is final
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