Tuesday 16 January 2018

England hit back at Wales' accusations of dirty tricks ahead of Six Nations opener

Coach Mike Catt responds after Wales ask French referee to be aware of illegal tactics ahead of Millennium Stadium clash

Sleight of hand: Joe Marler offloads to George Kruis during England training
Sleight of hand: Joe Marler offloads to George Kruis during England training

England have been forced to defend the legality of their attacking play ahead of Friday night’s RBS Six Nations opener at the Millennium Stadium after being accused of potentially employing illegal tactics by Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards.

Edwards, the former Wasps and Lions coach, has urged French referee Jérôme Garcès to be vigilant to possible use of obstruction by England’s decoy runners in a rugby league-style ploy.

Edwards said Wales head coach Warren Gatland would raise the issue in a meeting with Garcès last night in a move clearly designed to intensify the pressure and scrutiny of England ahead of tonight’s contest.

“I’ve studied England’s play a lot and did so along with Salford coach Marty Gleeson, who agreed with me that England use a style of play that is similar to the way I used to play with Wigan Warriors [as did England backs coach, Andy Farrell],” said Edwards.

“They try and get you to number up wrong on your left or right edge, the trigger being the full-back who is scanning where the attack should go. They [England] will be coming at you with league plays with the ball out the back. It is important that we get our structures right.

“It is also important that there is no obstruction of our defensive players ahead of the ball. A lot of tries are disallowed in rugby league because of that. I’m sure the referees and television match officials will be well aware of that.

“It is a risk to do a lot of those rugby league plays because of the obstruction rule. The obstruction rule is administered even more harshly in rugby union than in league.”

Edwards’s accusations prompted a swift response from the England camp, with attack coach Mike Catt yesterday insisting their plays were within the laws of the game and similar tactics were also used by Wales.

Catt said obstruction “is a standard rule in the game”, adding: “If you are obstructing someone you get penalised against and you now have the TMO as well who decides whether a try has been scored and whether someone has been taken out.

"The way we play, probably everyone in world rugby does what we do, so I don’t know what his [Edwards’s] concern is. There’s nothing illegal about it. Every team runs those sort of shapes. Rugby league guys do it. It’s league and union and everyone together. I don’t know why Wales don’t do it. They do, surprise surprise.”

The tit-for-tat exchange on the eve of England’s first return to Cardiff since their Grand Slam hopes were crushed in a 30-3 defeat two years ago only served to escalate the pre-match tension that has been simmering all week.


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