Joe Marler's headed 'assist' for England against Japan had social media buzzing. But Clive Woodward did it for real, as former Leicester team-mate Steve Kenney explains

Courtney Lawes’s try against Japan must be the luckiest of the Rugby World Cup so far. The England captain sauntered over after the ball was deflected into his path via a Will Stuart fumble and Joe Marler’s head.

“That is Joe Marler’s greatest-ever assist,” said former England lock Ben Kay on the ITV commentary. Watch the try again below.

Former England boss Clive Woodward then revealed, during the post-match chat in the studio, that he used to practise heading the ball for a move he called ‘Nobby Stiles’ during his amateur playing days at Leicester Tigers.

Well, RW can shed more light on that after doing an interview back in the day with Steve Kenney, the Tigers’ scrum-half from 1975-90. Kenney scored the winning try in the 1979 cup final against Moseley and is now retired after working as an account manager for BT.

“I first played with Clive with England Colts in 1974. He was my fly-half. I found him very likeable, confident. He was very sure of his own ability and his own opinion,” Kenney told us.

“When he came to Leicester, Clive added that extra bit and moved us forward another pace. He was quite unorthodox in his thought process, on the pitch and off it. Sometimes he would talk very sensibly, but sometimes he was so off the wall that you wondered whether it was genius or stupidity. He wasn’t restricted by conventional thinking.

The day Woodward headed the ball in a game

Woodward makes a tackle for Leicester in a 1983 cup match against High Wycombe (Getty Images)

“He came up with some really wacky moves. I remember one Thursday training session when Clive created this move called ‘Maradona’. I had to pass to Les Cusworth (fly-half), who passed over the top of Paul Dodge (inside-centre). Clive would jump up and head the ball towards the goalposts so that Dodge could run through the inside-centre channel, catch the ball and score under the posts.

“Chalkie White (the coach) said, ‘It will never work, don’t ever try it.’ But Clive said, ‘Chalkie, it’s a guaranteed six-pointer.” A try was worth four points then.

Come the Saturday and 20 minutes into the game against Coventry, Les called a Maradona. The ball skidded off the top of Clive’s head into the arms of a Coventry player, who ran up the other end to score. At the end of the game Chalkie had a face like thunder, but Clive told him, ‘I told you it would be a six-pointer!’

“And the move worked the following week.”

Typical Woodward, who of course went on to put his innovative thinking into the England team and guided them to World Cup glory in 2003.

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