George Ford left baffled by conversion decision in Wales win: ‘It doesn’t make sense’

George Ford was left baffled by the referee’s decision to allow Wales to deny his conversion attempt in England’s narrow Six Nations win at Twickenham.

After Ben Earl’s first half try, Ford was lining up a potentially crucial extra two points from just right of centre.

The fly half, as per his normal kicking routine, took a step to his left as he steadied himself and prepared to approach the ball.

The Welsh defence, assembled on their tryline, at this point began to charge, looking to referee James Doleman for permission.

Doleman spread his arms in approval, determining that Ford had begun his run-up and was thus free to be charged at. Ford never released a kick, with a Welsh player knocking the ball off his tee and the try remaining unconverted.

Ford requested an on-pitch explanation from the lead official, who insisted that he had begun his approach to the ball and did not allow a re-take.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that,” Ford said after kicking England to victory. “I’m trying to use the full shot-clock time as we’ve got men in the [sin] 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.

“Some of us kickers are going to have to stand like statues at the back of our run-up now. 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 at the ball and all of those 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.”

Ford’s late penalty ensured that the mishap was not costly, with England securing a second consecutive win as they look to build a title challenge.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

While the defensive team cannot charge down penalties kicked for goal, they are permitted to try to block conversions under Law 8.14.

The law reads: “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.”

Governing body World Rugby clarified in 2020 that “the moment the kicker moves in any direction it is deemed that he is ‘approaching to kick’”, seemingly supporting Doleman’s interpretation.

A similar scenario occurred during the Rugby World Cup last year, with Cheslin Kolbe charging down Thomas Ramos’s conversion attempt in South Africa’s quarter-final win over hosts France.