Tuesday 20 March 2018

Conor O'Shea: I'm sick and tired of people having a pop

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea and England head coach Eddie Jones shake hands before yesterday’s Six Nations game. Photo: Paul Harding/PA
Italy head coach Conor O’Shea and England head coach Eddie Jones shake hands before yesterday’s Six Nations game. Photo: Paul Harding/PA

Gavin Mairs

Italy boss Conor O'Shea accused Eddie Jones of a lack of respect after the England head coach launched a fierce attack on Italy's game-plan at Twickenham, claiming the crowd should be offered a refund and that he would rather retire than face "contests that cease to be rugby".

The England head coach said his players had been shocked by the Italians' controversial tactics of not engaging in rucks after a home player had been tackled during England's victory yesterday.

The absence of an offside line allowed Italy's defenders to stand beside England players as they attempted to pass the ball, prompting boos from the crowd and a critical reaction on social media.

The Grand Slam champions trailed 10-5 at the end of the worst half of Jones' reign. Danny Care and Elliot Daly steadied the ship with tries within eight minutes of the restart but it wasn't until the 70th minute that the bonus point was secured through Jack Nowell.

Jones's comments sparked an impassioned response from O'Shea, however, who accused the Australian of a lack of respect for Italy.

Jones suggested that the Rugby Football Union was likely to raise the matter with World Rugby amid concerns that the tactic would become commonplace on the international stage.

"If you paid for your ticket, ask for your money back," Jones said. "I'll have to give my money back to [Rugby Football Union chief executive] Ian Ritchie, because no one's had rugby yet. They [World Rugby] are in charge of the shape of the game and I am sure Bill Beaumont [the chairman] will have watched the game and will take action."

Jones was backed up by George Ford who called on World Rugby to clamp down on the ruck laws warning it could "kill the game".

"I hope it will get addressed before the Scotland game [England's next opponents] because if teams do that it is going to kill the game quickly," said Ford, the England fly-half.


"There's no rugby going to be played. I don't think that's good for the game that sort of stuff happening. You could see the frustrations from the players, the fans and the coaches. It's just not what the game should be like."

O'Shea conceded that the laws surrounding the ruck were now likely to change but insisted that Italy had merely employed a tactic that had already been used by Australia against Ireland and Toulouse against Wasps in the Champions Cup this season.

"When Wasps score a try to beat Toulouse in the European Cup and when David Pocock intercepts a ball against Ireland in the autumn internationals it is brilliant; when Italy do something it is not allowed," O'Shea said. "I am sick and tired of people having a pop and having a go. We came here to win.

"We kicked to corners, we missed a few kicks at goal, we attacked off scrums and we showed some unbelievable defence, so stop having a go.

"Will the law change? Of course it will, but the law was there against Wales and no one looked at how badly we were treated against Wales. We do something that's been done by Toulouse and Australia, and we do it and it's wrong.

"Why always us? Why? So what we did today... well of course he [Jones] did because he wanted 70 [points] so he wanted to take us to the cleaners. Is that respect?"

Jones likened the tactic to the 1981 one-day cricket international between Australia and New Zealand when Trevor Chappell prevented a six from being hit off the last ball to draw the game by controversially bowling under arm. "Congratulations to Italy. I thought they were brilliant in the execution, but if that's rugby, I'm going to retire. That's not rugby," Jones said.

"Could we have adjusted even quicker? Possibly, but it's difficult. The referee [Romain Poite] got flustered as well."

The tactics proved unsettling and a succession of confused senior England players took it in turns to question Poite over the ruse, Dylan Hartley making the first enquiry before Owen Farrell, James Haskell and Danny Care also sought answers.

Midway through the first half Haskell produced a comical reply from Poite when asking "how can we get them to form a ruck", to which the French official replied "I can't say, I'm a referee, I'm not a coach". (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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