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After no rucks in 2017, Italy say no more tricks on England

January 24, 2018

The 6 Nations rugby team captains Dylan Hartley from England, left, and Sergio Parisse from Italy, face each other as they pose for photographers with the trophy during the Rugby 6 Nations Launch of the tournament in London, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The Six Nations rugby tournament starts Saturday Feb. 3 and runs until mid-March. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — A year later, Italy rugby coach Conor O’Shea says he won’t be springing any more tricks on England counterpart Eddie Jones next week.

Jones doesn’t believe him.

O’Shea outsmarted Jones in the last Six Nations when he sent Italy out at Twickenham to not contest the breakdowns. No rucks meant no offside line, and England was confused and clueless.

The daring Italians trailed only 17-15 until the 70th minute, when England finally cottoned on to the resulting big holes in the Italy defense and prevailed 36-15.

O’Shea’s only regret was Italy’s superb effort was overlooked by debate over the merit of the legal tactic.

Rucks create an offside line but not if the ruck isn’t contested. The Italians deliberately rolled away after tackles and, without an offside line, stood among the England backs and disrupted their passing lanes to the undisguised fury of Jones.

“People expected England to win by 100 points but we played good rugby and didn’t get credit for it,” O’Shea said on Wednesday at a gathering of all the Six Nations coaches and captains.

He described the aftermath as an over-reaction.

World Rugby altered the law to say a ruck can be formed when an attacking player, not the ball-carrier, is on their feet and over the ball.

“The clarification was done too hastily,” O’Shea said. “It didn’t need to be tinkered with. It’s led to more contact.”

O’Shea gave a firm “No,” when asked if he planned another surprise when Italy welcomes England to Rome next week to kick off the Six Nations.

Jones, playfully, was doubtful.

“I’m sure Conor is trying to think up something,” he said. “I saw a piece of paper in his pocket saying, ‘No more defense,’ so we’ll practice for that.”

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