Marler's a Seagull

Joe Marler’s header assist for Courtney Lawes’ vital try in England’s victory over Japan has earned him a special bonus - a signed football shirt from his favourite club Brighton with ‘Marler 1’ on the back.

The prop, who claimed he had been practising headers before the ball ricocheted off his head for Lawes to scoop up, took delivery of the blue-and-white-striped top this week at the team’s training base.

Marler tried the shirt on for size before giving a demonstration of his heading technique. 

The Seagulls could have done with him on the pitch this weekend - they were hammered 6-1 at Premier League rivals Aston Villa!

Brits' road to Rugby World Cup 2019

In 2018 Schalk Brits was in Ibiza with his family, relaxing with a few cocktails after he hung up his boots following Saracens' Premiership title win. Sipping on a mojito he received a text message for then-South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus, now director of rugby, about if he wanted to be on the Springboks journey to Rugby World Cup 2019.

"It was weird, he asked 'is your line finished?'" Brits told the Official Rugby World Cup 2023 podcast. And I thought it was Vincent Koch, having beers, so I said 'yeah I am 100 per cent in. I am the quickest, fittest strongest, hottest hooker you'll ever have'." 

"After three or four messages of replying and taking the piss out of the messages my wife, the lawyer, the conservative one, said 'are you sure it's not Rassie?'

"I said 'Colinda I am 38 years old, they could have pulled me in way earlier, there is no chance it's him'. I then picked up the phone and Rassie picked up and that is how I got back into rugby for another 18-month stint."

Brits went on to become the oldest Rugby World Cup winner at the age of 38 years and 170 days when the Springboks beat England in the final.

Proof that Earl will celebrate anything

England back-row Ben Earl has taken some heat on social media for his vein-pumping celebrations of seemingly small wins during a match, like a turnover or a scrum penalty.

But rather than taking the criticism to heart, Earl - with the help of his club Saracens - used it to his advantage when announcing his new long-term deal with the English champions. Some joked that Earl would clap if a plane landed or celebrate opening a packet of crisps - so the club filmed the 25-year-old doing exactly that (below).

All Blacks prepare for knockouts by fighting zombies 

While New Zealand have insisted they remain solely focused on ensuring they qualify from Pool A, head coach Ian Foster did admit that his selection for Thursday's evening's clash with Uruguay has been made with at least one eye on the knockout stages. With Ireland likely quarter-final opponents, you can see why. But despite such significant challenges looming large, old friends Tupou Vaa'i and Leicester Fainga'anuku admitted their thoughts have been elsewhere in recent days. 

"We are currently watching The Walking Dead at the moment and all our talk has just been about what weapon would you use if there were zombies," second-row Vaa'i said after being named to start alongside winger Fainga'anuku against Los Teros. 

The inseparable duo, who came through age-group rugby together and revealed the only time they argue is over who makes the tea and biscuits, seem to have found agreement on how to tackle the un-dead. 

"Was it a hammer, Leicester?" Vaa'i laughed. Neither player confirmed whether such tactics were being considered to take on Peter O'Mahony and the rest of the grizzly Irish forward pack.

Ireland fans pick up after themselves

There have been stories in the media recently about the New Zealand team cleaning team rooms but they aren't the only nation doing their bit in the cities of France.

Former New Zealand fly-half Andrew Mehrtens, speaking on the Official Rugby World Cup 2023 podcast, explains: "I was over in Bordeaux a couple of days ago. People were talking about how the Irish had been there late at night, they had never seen such partying ... until 4am.

"But they reckon the Irish cleaned up after themselves. Took all their glassware away from in the streets. They were very impressed."