Six Nations

Italy coach happy they caught England off-guard

2017-02-28 21:26
Conor O'Shea (Getty)

London - Conor O'Shea has accepted a change to rugby union's rules is inevitable following Italy's controversial 'no-ruck' ploy against England but warned law-makers against a "knee-jerk" reaction.

The Italy coach said World Rugby, the sport's global governing body, should delay any change until next season even though England boss Eddie Jones labelled the Azzurri's approach a "joke", with Red Rose flyhalf George Ford calling for immediate action to outlaw a tactic he said threatened to "kill the game".

World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont was due to hold informal talks on Tuesday at the global governing body's Dublin headquarters with referees' chief Alain Rolland concerning Sunday's match.

But no formal action, if any, is likely until after next week's Dublin meeting of World Rugby's rugby committee at the earliest.

England won 36-15 on Sunday to stay on course for back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams as they extended their winning run to 17 successive Test victories.

But the result was overshadowed by the debate about Italy's tactics.

The perennial underdogs remarkably led England 10-5 at half-time after repeatedly refusing to commit anyone other than the tackler to the breakdown, meaning no ruck was formed.

As a result offside became irrelevant and Italy players could stand directly between England's Danny Care and halfback partner Ford.

Afterwards a frustrated Jones said: "If that's rugby, I'm going to retire. That's not rugby."

The Australian added: "I'm sure Bill Beaumont watched that game today and will take some action."

But O'Shea told Tuesday's London Evening Standard: "It shouldn't be done during the season and it shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction because of one game.

"Will it be amended? I am sure it will at some stage, laws always are."

O'Shea, previously in charge of London club Harlequins, said he was fed up with what he thought was the double-standard applied to Italy

"Wasps did something similar in a European game against Toulouse with Nathan Hughes intercepting the ball and it was tactical genius but when we did it then it's something wrong."

The former Ireland fullback added: "What riled me is that when England beat South Africa last year then it's brilliant and when we beat them last year everyone says they are rubbish.

"Italian rugby has to think outside the norm or else it will never catch up," insisted O'Shea whose side had suffered a 63-10 thrashing by Ireland in Rome in their previous match.

"People talk about David versus Goliath well it wasn't in a normal fist fight that David won.

"Do you think people would be talking about England v Italy like they are? No. People not involved in the game are asking, 'what was that about?' and 'what was going on there?' That's brilliant for rugby and you have to encourage people to think outside the box.

"All we did was do something that has been done a lot and it wasn't new. We just added a bit of surprise because people expected (England to score) 70 points."

The that fact England scored five tries in the second half after exploiting the main weakness of the 'no-ruck' ploy - an unguarded area in front of the tackled player - suggests a law change may not be necessary.

After Sunday's match, Jones accused referee Romain Poite of looking "flustered", but a World Rugby spokesperson told AFP on Monday the Frenchman and his colleagues had "officiated law correctly".

England's James Haskell was involved in a comical incident during the match when, having asked Poite "what the exact rule is", he received the reply: "I can't say, I'm the referee, I'm not a coach".

That prompted Wales' leading international referee Nigel Owens to tell the Daily Telegraph: "I am surprised at players not knowing this because international referees tend to go in with their respective national squads and discuss stuff like this."

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