Sean O’Brien praises ’smart’ Italy performance against England

Sean O’Brien has no doubt but that he would have been much quicker than a befuddled England in countering the unorthodox tactics used by Italy at Twickenham over the weekend, writes Brendan O’Brien.

Conor O’Shea’s visitors chose not to engage in the ruck in Sunday’s Six Nations tie. Cue no offside line.

It played havoc with an England side left utterly perplexed by the approach and one that only got to grips with it in the second-half.

England captain Dylan Hartley and flanker James Haskell at one point approached the referee Romain Poite for a clarification on the issue - to the amusement of many - but coach Eddie Jones failed to see the funny, or fair, side of it all afterwards.

Jones claimed the Italian approach was “not rugby” and some of his players took similar umbrage with the unforeseen tactic afterwards too.

O’Brien was adamant that he would have had little hesitation in addressing the situation and nipping it in the bud.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said this afternoon. “Up the jumpers stuff!”

England eventually managed to score six tries, five of them after the restart, to claim a bonus point win but the 36 points they scored fell well short of the 63 Ireland managed the round before against the Azzurri in Rome and that could have repercussions for the final table.

“I certainly would have known the rules around it anyway,” said O’Brien.

“England dealt with it in the end but in fairness to the Italians they were very clever and smart in the way they went about their game plan.

“So you have to hand it to hand it to them too, but you have to adapt to those situations if they arise and it took England a little bit to do that. But they got the result they needed in the end.”

So did Ireland, their 19-9 defeat of the French on Saturday keeping them on course for a possible title showdown with England in Dublin on March 18.

First things first, though, and Ireland must see to Wales in Cardiff on Friday week if that crescendo is to come to pass.

O’Brien was one of five Ireland players to sit out the open training session at the Aviva Stadium on Monday but, like Andrew Trimble, Conor Murray and Cian Healy, his lack of involvement was attributed to mere bumps and bruises.

The only injury concern according to the coaching staff is Rob Kearney who has undergone a scan on the groin problem he picked up against the French.

The Ireland squad for the final two Six Nations ties will be announced in the coming days.

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