George Ford on conversion controversy: ‘Kickers will have to stand like statues – it doesn’t make sense’

Elliot Lee kicks the ball away from George Ford/George Ford on conversion controversy: ‘Kickers will have to stand like statues – it doesn’t make sense’
Wales' hooker Elliot Lee kicks the ball away after charging down George Ford's conversion attempt - AFP/Adrian Dennis

England fly half George Ford warned that goalkickers are going to have to “stand like statues” after his conversion was controversially charged down in the 16-14 victory against Wales.

Ford was in the process of attempting to convert Ben Earl’s try in the 20th minute when he took one step left, which prompted Welsh wing Rio Dyer to fly up towards the ball before hooker Elliot Dee kicked it away.

World Rugby’s law on charge downs states: “All players retire to their goal line and do not overstep that line until the kicker moves in any direction to begin their approach to kick. When the kicker does this, they may charge or jump to prevent a goal but must not be physically supported by other players in these actions.”

Referee James Doleman ruled Ford had started his run-up when he took the sidestep meaning England had to settle for five rather than seven points. The decision sparked a chorus of boos from the Twickenham crowd while Ford continued to remonstrate with Doleman and head coach Steve Borthwick came down from his seat in the stands to speak to the fourth official.

It follows a similar incident in the World Cup quarter-final where South Africa winger Cheslin Kolbe charged down Thomas Ramos’ conversion in a game that the Springboks’ 29-28 win over France.

Ford, however, remains perplexed that Wales were allowed to encroach before he started his kicking process.

“Some of us kickers are going to have to stand like statues at the back of our run-up now,” Ford said. “A lot of things with kickers are, you want to get a feel, and sometimes you don’t quite feel right at the back of your run-up, so you adjust it a bit and think ‘right I’ve got it now’. You want your chest to be (directed) at the ball and all them things. What it means for us kickers is that we’ve got to be ultra diligent with our setup and process, as if they’re going to go down that route and look for stuff like that, we can’t afford that.

“[The current law] doesn’t make sense to me, mate. I’m trying to use the full shot-clock time as we’ve got men in the bin, you’re at the back of your stance, have your routine, and if adjusting your feet like that is initiating your run-up then... I’m not too sure to be honest.”