• Governing body not looking to change rules at this stage • England coach Eddie Jones criticised referee after victory on Sunday
Romain Poite was criticised by Eddie Jones after England’s victory over Italy on Sunday. Photograph: Andrew Fosker/REX/Shutterstock
World Rugby has given its backing to the referee Romain Poite after Eddie Jones criticised the Frenchman for his performance during England’s victory over Italy on Sunday.
But while World Rugby has previously announced that it is looking into the tackle and ruck laws via its law review process, it is understood no specific changes to the law in question are underway at this stage.
Jones was furious at how Italy’s tactic of refusing to ruck affected his side’s 36-15 win at Twickenham, with a number of England players baffled by the innovative strategy. The head coach also took aim at Poite, who was repeatedly asked about Italy’s tactic by England players but could be heard informing Dylan Hartley and James Haskell: “I’m sorry; I’m a referee, not a coach.” Jones said: “The refereed got flustered – I have never seen a referee lose his perspective of the game [like that].”
World Rugby’s view however, is that the law was officiated correctly by Poite. The law states that a ruck is formed “when one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, close around the ball on the ground”. If no ruck is formed then there is no offside line.
Jones said after the match he expects the law to be changed to outlaw the tactic, encouraging the World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont, to take action while George Ford warned that the strategy could “kill the game”. The Italy head coach, Conor O’Shea, who revealed he discussed the tactic with Poite during their pre-match meeting, issued a staunch defensive of his game-plan however, but did say, “Will the law change? Of course it will. But we were legal and we played to the law.”
There is a formal World Rugby process via which the RFU could seek a clarification on the law, which in turn could result in the practice effectively being ended.
A RFU spokesman said: “This type of issue is discussed ‘in the round’ with World Rugby, through the normal structures and meetings. World Rugby regularly issue clarifications on various laws so could decide to do this anyway due to the interest generated by yesterday’s match.”
The tactic, dubbed “the fox” by O’Shea, enables defenders to stand in between the attacking scrum-half and his receivers with impunity and has been utilised before by the Chiefs in Super Rugby and by Australia against Ireland in the autumn. Jones, formerly the Japan head coach said: “We were going to try it [once] with Japan and we decided no because we thought it was against the spirit of the game.”
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