World Rugby considering law change over Italy tactics

World Rugby is considering whether to review the laws governing the breakdown in light of the tactics used by Italy against England on Sunday, it is understood.

The Azzurri refused to compete for the ball once a tackle had been made and with no offside line established, they were able to swarm over England with impunity in an RBS 6 Nations match they lost 36-15.

Eddie Jones was furious with the tactics and called for World Rugby to revise the laws, and Press Association Sport understands the sport's global governing body is assessing whether it needs to act.

Jones was highly critical of Italy's gameplan, stating "if that's rugby, I'm going to retire". Jones added that "in football they say park the bus. I don't know what they had, but it was bigger than a bus".

The Rugby Football Union, however, has chosen not to raise the matter directly with World Rugby.

"This type of issue is discussed 'in the round' with World Rugby, through the normal structures and meetings," an RFU spokeswoman said.

"World Rugby regularly issue clarifications on various laws so could decide to do this anyway due to the interest generated by yesterday's match."

As part of a routine review of the laws of the game after the 2015 World Cup, the laws dealing with the tackle and ruck are being examined.

One of the sport's most respected thinkers has rejected Jones' call for the laws to be changed, claiming the tactics used by Italy can be exploited.

Wayne Smith, who was a part of New Zealand's coaching team for their back-to-back World Cup wins, experimented with the ploy once when at the Waikato Chiefs but never revisited it.

The clash at Twickenham is the first time they have been used for the entirety of a match and Smith insists that any team employing them in a similar fashion would get "cut to bits".

"It's a roll of the dice in many ways," Smith told Fairfax Media in New Zealand.

"There's an obvious weakness in that you can pull out of the tackle and put no one else in, but it's hard to avoid them pulling you in.

"So if someone over the ball grabs hold of you, all of a sudden the ruck has been formed and the defensive line has to go back.

"I don't think it requires a law change. The law says you require one from each team over the ball bound together to create a ruck. I can't see them changing that.

"It's not an anomaly in the law, it's just a part of the game, a shock tactic that a team might use now and again, but certainly if you became predictable by doing it you'd be cut to bits."

Smith has sympathy with England's slow witted response to the ploy - "if something unpredictable happens it can often make you sluggish" - but Fiji's Olympic gold medal-winning sevens coach Ben Ryan is far less forgiving.

It was Ryan who first devised the tactic when performing the same role for England.

"I did it five years ago with England Sevens. It is another defensive strategy...easy to counter if you have some nous. It's coaching, Eddie," Ryan told The Times.

Adding an element of farce to England's 17th successive victory was the sight of their senior players seeking explanation of the rules from referee Romain Poite throughout the first half.

The most comical moment involved James Haskell, who sought clarity "on the ruck thing", adding "I just want to know what the exact rule is", and on one occasion Poite replied "I can't say, I'm the referee, I'm not a coach".

"We knew Italy would come here with a different game plan but we didn't necessarily expect it to be that - I don't think anyone in the stadium did," Haskell said.

"Fair play to Italy, it was clever on their part and they are very well coached. It was probably a bit of a boring game and a weird one to play in.

"All the bad stuff happened at once and it rattled us and put us off our game a bit and that is the nature of where we are at.

"It is called a Test match for a reason and we have been tested and you always want to learn.

"We will go away and tactically talk through a lot of things and work on how we can react a lot quicker but we got the win and so let's not get too down on ourselves."


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