Is this rugby? Controversial tactic sparks anger

Ross Houston
March 1, 2017

I admit, now the dust has settled, my view on Italy's anti-rucking tactic has altered.

Eddie Jones launched a fierce attack on Italy's game plan at Twickenham, claiming that the crowd should be offered a refund and that he would rather retire than face "contests that cease to be rugby".

Initially, it seemed Italian defenders were just being over-excited but, as the trend continued, it soon became clear it was an extremely clever use of the rules.

That is despite Italy receiving worldwide admiration for the way they exploited it against his side at Twickenham.


We will have to see whether England will keep their nerve and prove the bookies right in putting them hot favourites to win another Six Nations Grand Slam.

I don't really buy their argument that it was created to win the game. Jones, formerly Japan's head coach, said: "We were going to try it [ONCE] with Japan and we decided no because we thought it was against the spirit of the game".

There was already the possibility of chaos given a swirling wind inside headquarters; even with it behind him, Owen Farrell - on his 50th appearance - missed touch with one kick during a weird opening 40 minutes.

England could rack up an even greater number of points on Sunday afternoon although what will be of more concern to Jones is how the team plays after two matches where they've struggled to recapture the rhythm of 2016. That's not rugby. I'm not angry, I understand what they [Italy] did. The Italians have played the English 23 times and they've lost 23 times. "Our job is to go on the pitch, perform our best and hopefully earn a bit of respect because it is not something - respect - that Italian rugby has had a huge amount of in recent weeks", O'Shea said. The country's head coach Milton Haig told CNN his side would "add value" to the Six Nations on and off the field, and would be obvious candidates to join the tournament's format. But Poite's handling of events never previously seen on a rugby pitch - at least to this degree - was exemplary and a masterclass in communication with players.


Leinster flanker O'Brien praised Italy's savvy ruse then admitted Ireland were aware that no ruck means no offside line - and would have known straight away how to combat it. Well, those plans took way too long to implement. "We just need to make sure we're quicker next time". Italy did nothing wrong technically but it's not in rugby's interest to have showpiece games hijacked like this.

The Azzurri rattled England at Twickenham today by making tackles and then refusing to ruck over the ball, leaving the game wide open with no offside line. That can not be good for the game.

The tactic has become the talk of the sport and World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont was due today to have informal talks with global referees chief Allain Rolland in Dublin but official discussion by the game's bosses will not take place until next week.

The most comical moment involved James Haskell, who sought clarity "on the ruck thing", adding "I just want to know what the exact rule is", and on one occasion Poite replied "I can't say, I'm the referee, I'm not a coach".


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