The Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham on February 26 created quite a stir. Not so much for the quality of the rugby, but for a tactic adopted by the Conor O’Sheas Italian team which appeared to catch England completely off guard for the best part of the first half.
The tactic involved a clever and perfectly legal interpretation of the laws on rucking, in which the Italian team did not contest the ball after tackling an England player, meaning they did not have to adhere to an offside line. What surprised so many spectators and commentators was not the tactic itself but the fact that the England players seemed entirely ignorant of the law in question.
This was clear for all to see as England captain Dylan Hartley and his team mate James Haskell were forced to confront referee Romain Poite, in order to ask for “clarity” on how to form a ruck and exactly what the rule was that Italy appeared to be exploiting to their advantage. England were quite simply “baffled”.