England's grave concerns over no-ruck tactics

Substitute winger Jack Nowell evading the tackle of centre Michele Campagnaro to score the first of his two tries and England's fourth, in the 36-15 win over Italy at Twickenham.
Substitute winger Jack Nowell evading the tackle of centre Michele Campagnaro to score the first of his two tries and England's fourth, in the 36-15 win over Italy at Twickenham.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • England fly-half George Ford urged rugby chiefs to outlaw the spoiling tactics employed by Italy at Twickenham on Sunday, saying these had the potential to "kill the game".

Six Nations champions England eventually won 36-15 to extend their winning run to 17 successive victories and remain on course for back-to-back Grand Slams.

But the final score did not tell the story of an extraordinary match where perennial whipping boys Italy, against all predictions, led 10-5 at half-time.

England were repeatedly frustrated during the first half by Italy's novel tactic of refusing to commit anyone other than the tackler to the breakdown, meaning no ruck was formed.

As a result, offside became irrelevant and Italy's players could stand directly between scrum-half Danny Care and fly-half Ford.

England coach Eddie Jones said Italy, thrashed 63-10 by Ireland last time out, were merely intent on damage limitation, as he called for World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, himself a former England captain, to take action.

"They (Italy) brilliantly executed that game and that got them what they wanted which was a close loss," said Jones.

"In football they say park the bus. I don't know what they had, but it was bigger than a bus..."

"If that's rugby, I'm going to retire. That's not rugby."

French referee Romain Poite saw nothing wrong in what the visitors were doing, with England eventually playing in similar fashion.

The hosts, deploying aggressive runners down the middle, finally got their act together by scoring five second-half tries.

But, having seen the tactic in action, Ford urged officials to prevent a repeat before England face old rivals Scotland in a match for the Triple Crown at Twickenham on March 11.

Said Ford: "I hope it will get addressed before the Scotland game, because if teams do that, it is going to kill the game quickly.

"There's no rugby going to be played."

But unrepentant Italy coach Conor O'Shea, who insisted his side had "played to the law", said: "We are not going to roll over and we are going to fight. Just because we took people by surprise, what do they want us to do?"

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'England's grave concerns over no-ruck tactics'. Print Edition | Subscribe