On Sunday England defeated Italy 36-15 in the third round of the RBS 6 Nations at Twickenham. The score line looks normal for an England Italy match however this contest was far from it. The Azuri knew they were up against it from the start and decided early on to throw a spanner in the works something the host were certainly not expecting. The guests decided to not commit men to the breakdown after a tackle and therefor remain onside and allowed to stand anywhere they pleased on the pitch. The tactic delighted and infuriated people in equal measure with some calling it un-sportsmen like behaviour where as others seen it as a masterstroke. It got the people talking if one thing is true.
My take on it is thus, I found nothing wrong with the ploy and the Italians had every right to try to mix things up. If it was within the laws of the game of rugby I have no qualms about it. I hear people mention the “spirit of the game” and to me the spirit of rugby is to play clean and with respect. The way the English rugby community (be it national coaches to the passionate fans) have been acting of late about this ploy for Italy to turn up to HQ and try to neuter England is against the spirit of the game of Rugby. Mr Piote (the referee) had an outstanding game in my opinion with his understanding of the laws of the game. He made it clear when a ruck is indeed a ruck or if it was a tackle, something the English player, coaches and fans did not seem to understand. I really hope we do not see an unneeded change of the laws when it comes to the breakdown. What happened was legal and what we saw from England, was a team who didn’t know how to deal with something they were not prepared for, this can easily be seen when James Haskell and Dylan Hartley has to be told what the difference between a ruck and a tackle is.
Two important question came out of the weekend, both of which involved New Zealand somehow. The first one was if it was England who did this against the all blacks would the reaction be the same? And the second one is would it have taken New Zealand 40 minutes to learn what was going on and deal with it appropriately. The answer to both questions is no. England got embarrassed and that is why people are angry with Italy.