England had a tough time adapting when Italy employed a breakdown tactic that we’ve seen used by a few teams before, namely the Chiefs in Super Rugby. It resulted in chaos for the halfbacks, and led Eddie Jones to state that it wasn’t rugby being played out there.
It has been called a Conor O’Shea masterstroke and while it provided some comic relief for neutrals, England players and fans were none too pleased with the tactic of Italy deliberately not committing to the breakdown. Thus, no ruck is ever formed, and there is no offside line.
Amusingly, England’s Nathan Hughes did the same thing at one point, to cheers from the home fans.
Italy disrupted to the point that they were trailing just 17-15 with ten minutes left in the match, and were actually leading at half time.
Referee Romain Poite had to be on his toes and had a bit of a chuckle when he was approached by James Haskell and Dylan Hartley to give an explanation.
“I’m very sorry, I am a referee, I’m not a coach” was his response.
England’s Australian coach Jones was clearly agitated by it, not holding back in his interviews post match. “It wasn’t rugby, let’s face the facts,” he said.
“You’ve got to have an offside line to play the game. If that’s rugby then I’m going to retire. That’s not rugby. So if you paid for your ticket, ask for your money back.”
Below is raw footage, and then an amusing interview with Eddie Jones, who again, said it was not rugby.
Eddie Jones speaking to the BBC after the game, again mentioning cricket’s Trevor Chappell
“That wasn’t rugby”
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) February 26, 2017