I am absolutely gobsmacked by this after match interview by England Coach Eddie Jones. This is the first time he’s put a foot wrong in my opinion.
The Italian coach Conor O’Shea should be congratulated, for coming up with a tactic that totally flummoxed the England players. Now to be clear, what the Italians did was totally within the LAWS of the game. RUGBY HAS LAWS, NOT RULES!!!!! Laws can be interpreted, rules are set in stone. There is a major difference in that.
All the Italians did was not commit men to the tackle area therefore not forming a ruck, therefore there was no offside line so the Italians could stand where they liked, usually blocking England from passing the ball, so stopping them from playing how they wanted to.
Any Rugby aficionado will know this is totally legal and more to the point not new. The Waikato Chiefs did a similar thing in Super Rugby and you see it a lot in Rugby Sevens.
What upsets me is reaction from the England Coach and various ex players who put themselves up as pundits bleating about how it ruined the game and World Rugby should be looking at the Laws so it can’t happen again.
This is a typical Tweet from ex England scrum half and world cup winner Matt Dawson and my reply to him.
How rubbish is that? Smacks of Sour Grapes to me.
What the “experts” should be worried about is the England players not knowing the Laws, as per James Haskell actually asking the Ref, Frenchman Romain Poite (who had a great game), what is the Law and what should they do about it! Poite quite rightly told him that he was the Ref and not the coach!
The other massively worrying thing was that the England players could not work out what to do when faced with something “new”, they had to wait for halftime for Eddie Jones and the other coaches to tell them how to counter the tactic. So much for Heads up Rugby and playing what you see!
To summarise, hats off to Italy for using their brains in a innovative way, worrying for England and their inability to adapt, plus lack of Law knowledge.
To finish on a positive, England still won convincingly and they seem to have the knack of winning ugly. Scotland next. Should be a cracking game against a much improved Scots team who are starting to motor.