World Rugby boss to 'discuss' Italy tactics

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 12:46

REACTION: Bill Beaumont, the head of World Rugby, is to "discuss" Italy's controversial 'no-ruck' ploy at Twickenham last weekend after being urged to take action by England coach Eddie Jones.

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 scrumhalf Danny Care and flyhalf George 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." 

Beaumont, himself a former England captain, told the Daily Mail: "I will be discussing it when I go to Dublin, for a catch-up with our referees' manager, Alain Rolland, at the World Rugby offices. I spoke to Mark Egan – who runs our rugby committee — today [Monday] on a couple of matters and this was one of them."

But Beaumont ruled out the prospect of significant change before England's next match, against Scotland at Twickenham on March 11, although World Rugby's committee has a scheduled meeting before the next round of Six Nations matches.

"That is probably a bit tight. It is less than 24 hours since this happened and we will review it, as we do lots of things.

"Is it a loophole? I don't know," former lock Beaumont, said. "Italy felt they were acting within the laws of the game, which they were. 

I'm not criticising [Italy coach] Conor O'Shea or Italy because what they did was legal. Everyone was taken by surprise and it proved most of us have to revise our knowledge of the laws!"

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

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.

Ben Ryan, who as England Sevens coach pioneered the 'no-ruck' tactic in 2012, accused Jones of being "rude" in his reaction and told The Times: "It is so easy [to counter]. You either make sure there is an Italian in the breakdown, so it has to be called a ruck, or you run straight through the middle, where there is a hole."

Clive Woodward, having praised Italy for their use of an "entirely legitimate" tactic on Monday, admitted a day later that he'd changed his mind, with England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach telling the Daily Mail: "It can't be allowed so the law must be changed. Rugby must have an offside line."

Ireland flank Sean O'Brien insisted his side would have reacted quicker than England.

"Yeah, absolutely, up the jumpers stuff! I certainly would have known the rules around it anyway," he said.

By contrast, 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."

O'Shea, whose team were thrashed 10-63 by his native Ireland in their previous match, was adamant Italy had "played to the law". 

"Just because we took people by surprise, what do they want us to do?" he said.

Agence France-Presse

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