ENGLAND head coach Eddie Jones believes World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont will instigate a law change after witnessing a “joke” game against Italy – then admitted contemplating in the past using the same tactics that irritated him so much.
In remarkable scenes at Twickenham yesterday, 100-1 underdogs Italy led 10-5 against the Six Nations champions at half-time after deploying a bizarre, but clearly productive plan.
Conor O’Shea, one of rugby’s most attack-minded coaches, instructed his Azzurri side not to form rucks when defending.
By doing so, there was no offside line so Italy’s defenders continually poured into the confused English line, shutting down options for their frustrated scrum-half Danny Care.
Many of their gilded players simply did not know what to do when faced by a tactic rarely used – New Zealand side the Chiefs are known for it – and never at this level or with such consistency.
Granted, the shaken hosts eventually adapted to win 36-15 and stay on course for successive grand slams, but only after scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes.
Jones likened Italy’s play to Australia cricketer Trevor Chappell infamously bowling underarm against New Zealand in 1981, while he also urged the 80,000 crowd to demand a refund, which might not sit well with the Rugby Football Union.
“The players were definitely shocked,” he said. “You go to pass the ball and all you see is a blue jumper. Then you catch the ball and all you see is a blue jumper.
“We teach the players to look to pass and when you can’t do that then it becomes a different game…it was a joke of a game.
“We’ve no injuries; we didn’t have to do a clean-out so no one’s got sore shoulders. They’re up there now dancing, partying, having the time of their lives as they haven’t played rugby yet.
“It’s not up to me (to decide on law changes). I’ll leave laws up to others. But it can be easily solved. Of course it can. I could solve it in an instant – just have a tackle offside line; as soon as you make a tackle there’s an offside line.
“They (World Rugby) are in charge of the shape of the game and I’m sure Bill Beaumont watched and will take some action.”
But Jones did concede he had toyed with the idea of adopting the same tactic.
“At one stage we were going to try it with Japan,” he said. “But we decided no because we thought it was against the spirit of the game.
“It’s everyone’s opinion what the spirit of the game is. We thought about it to try make the opponents not play rugby.
“When you’ve got a weaker team and you make opponents not play you’re in a position where you can contest, which is what happened (yesterday).
“But I thought Italy were brilliant. I’m not critical of Italy at all.”
In fairness to Italy, they had come under intense scrutiny in the build-up to yesterday’s game given their consistent failure to produce results and the fact they have perennially ended sixth since joining in 2000.
There have been calls for them to be ‘relegated’ from the event, especially given Rugby Europe champions Georgia are two places higher in the world rankings.
Irishman O’Shea stood by his decision, bemoaning the lack of praise given to his side.
“When we beat South Africa (last November), they were terrible,” he said. “England beat South Africa here for the first time in 10, years, ‘well done, brilliant’.
“We do something that’s been done by Wasps and Australia, and we do it and it’s wrong. Why always us? Why?
“We will dig our way out of this hole by thinking differently.
“It’s not a magic wand; you work, and you’re passionate.
“We wanted to give them hope that they weren’t just going to fill a pitch and be here like the old gladiators and the crowd wanting a 100 (points).
“I think you could almost say we’ve had enough and we’re going to fight.”