Six Nations

World Rugby backs Poite, Woodward lauds Italy

2017-02-27 17:30
Romain Poite (Gallo)

London - Rugby chiefs insisted on Monday that referee Romain Poite had been completely correct in the way he oversaw Italy's unorthodox approach to the breakdown during their Six Nations clash at Twickenham after the French official came under fire from England coach Eddie Jones.

The Australian was left seething as a struggling Italy, defying all pre-match predictions, led the Grand Slam champions 10-5 at half-time at Twickenham in a match where the Azzurri repeatedly refused to form rucks and so could legitimately stray offside - a move England's 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward called "innovative and inspired".

England eventually regained their composure to win 36-15 on Sunday as they extended their winning streak to 17 successive Tests.

But an angry Jones called for the rulebook to be revised and accused Poite of looking "flustered", adding: "I've never seen a referee lose his perspective of the game."

However, a spokesperson for World Rugby, the game's global governing body said on Monday: "The match official team officiated law correctly.

"There is a formal process for unions to request law clarifications, if they wish to do so."

Whether England will do that remains uncertain but Jones called for action on Sunday, as did England flyhalf George Ford, who said it would "kill the game quickly" if other sides followed Italy's example as "there's no rugby going to be played".

Despite England's outrage, this was not the first time the tactic had been deployed with New Zealand's Chiefs having done something similar in Super Rugby and Australia's David Pocock nearly creating a try against Ireland last year with the ploy.

An impressed Woodward, whose England team won the World Cup against an Australia side coached by Jones, praised the Azzurri in his Daily Mail column published on Monday.

"I totally support Italy and their use of their innovative and inspired tactics at Twickenham on Sunday," said Woodward.

"Against a superior team and a rugby nation with infinitely more resources, Italy went down fighting and scheming and plotting," the former England and British and Irish Lions centre added.

"It was behind the lines - literally - guerrilla war and I found it compulsive viewing.

"It's what David always has to do if he is to stand any chance against Goliath.

"The tactic is entirely legitimate and it was fascinating to watch it unfold in a big-match situation."

Italy coach Conor O'Shea had no qualms at all about his side's approach, saying his side - thrashed 63-10 by Ireland in their previous match - "played to the law".

"We are not going to roll over and we are going fight," he insisted. "Just because we took people by surprise, what do they want us to do?"

O'Shea, a former Ireland fullback who played under Woodward at London Irish, added on Sunday: "I remember the great Clive Woodward bringing me over here in 1995 and he said 'Conor, the problem with you guys, in Ireland, is you never think differently'."

Read more on:    six nations  |  romain poite  |  rugby
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