A stormy afternoon in Twickenham shook the world of rugby.

Italy tactic to not attacking the ball at the tackle area shocked everyone that was expecting England to blow the Azzurri away

First of all let’s explain clearly what the rules are:

- when a tackle is made there is an area of one meter around the ball called tackle-area.

- If a player enter this area he must do so throw the “gate” from his own side. A tackle doesn’t create an offside line outside the tackle area so every player can stand everywhere

- The defending players outside the tackle area are not allowed to attack the ball or the scrum-half until he picks the ball up from that area

- The referee cannot call “use it” because there is no ruck…

So the interpretation of the rules where spot on from the Italian players and referee Poite, on the other side the England players were not ready to understand the situation.

After the half time break they understood what was going on and adapted.

This tactic was adopted by several teams in the past, at club and international level, but never in a such extended manner to stop the ball been played from every ruck.

Italy used the rules to disrupt England game plan and it was a very smart decision because at the end of the day every team want to stop the opposition scoring in the most effective way they can.

Are we sure we had the same reaction if it was England using this tactic against the All Blacks…?

So let’s be serious and accept that it was a close contest between two teams who were prepared to play a game of rugby by the standing rules.

On the other side I also understand Eddie Jones’ disappointment.

What happens if both teams on the field adopt this tactic… literally no one can play the ball…

The solutions at the moment are:

- pick the ball up throw the middle

- pick the ball up and create a maul which creates the off side line.

England did both of these options occasionally and at times they were effective, creating some momentum and picking the Italian defence out of position.

Now there are some questions on the table:

Is this rule as it stands good for defences?

I don’t know… England score 6 tries and considered the circumstances it’s not that bad… Italy stayed in the game for 70 minutes but opposition from next week will have time to adapt and prepare for this tactic so I’m not sure it will have the same impact of this weekend.

Is this rule as it stands good for attack?

I don’t think so… If we all want a pick and go or maul contest it’s probably fine… but the way the game is going I’m not sure it’s the right style everyone want to sell to supporters and tv…

Here we go back to what Eddie Jones pointed out after the game, proving he is very smart:

He congratulates the Italian team but he also put World Rugby under pressure to make a decision on it.

Is this rule as it stands making things simple for the referee, players and supporters?

I don’t know… for sure it complicates things even more…!

World Rugby were considering changing this law before the Twickenham game, so I’m expecting, as Eddie Jones said, they will have a close look at it as quick as possible…

It’s very likely that in the future (days or weeks) a tackle will create the offside line all around the field to allow attack to use the ball even if the opposition don’t attack the ball at the breakdown.

For sure every team this week will practice solutions for this scenario until a law change will take place…

Credit to Italy because they exposed this aspect of the game to everybody and were able to think out of the box and be competitive in a way the opposition didn’t expect!

When Conor O’Shea was saying he is trying to change the Italian mentality he probably didn’t expect to change the way the entire world of rugby was seeing the actual game… He did so last Sunday at Twickenham and even if Italy didn’t win the game they made history for this game!

1 Response to "RUCK or TACKLE"

  1. Hi Marco,

    Good to see the game being viewed from both ends, it was great to read. I’ve seen a lot of comments from both sides (haters of England and the English which I am) and my thoughts are below:

    Were Italy within the laws? Of course so fair play to them. It stopped us scoring as many tries as we could have. However we still scored 6 tries, got a bonus point and agree with what Jones said “we’re undefeated still with a bonus point, we’re doing handstands” a win is a win!

    Was it a positive game to watch for the amount of people that probably tuned in? Not at all. Now every team will be trying to do it, especially at my level which makes the game very boring to play and watch. There was no physicality at the breakdown (as a forward we quite enjoy this), and it wasn’t a quick, flowing game. I’m not fussed that it happened to England, again fair play to Italy for thinking outside the box, however I think this law will be detrimental to the game at all levels moving forward. As Jones said there was no rugby played, no rucks, not much ball for the backline, no physicality etc. Feeling sorry for all the amateur referees this weekend who will probably have to ref this law with all the teams trying it…


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