Conor O'Shea caused mayhem and forced a law change in 2017 when his Italian side stunned England with their 'ruckgate' tactics back in 2017.
Eddie Jones' side headed into the clash against Italy as massive favourites after Italy went down 63-10 to Ireland a fortnight before the clash but at half time O'Shea's men led 10-5 lead thanks largely to their tactics at the breakdown.
The idea behind the tactics was simple:
- Do not contest the ruck
- Therefore a ruck is not formed and there is no offside line.
This allowed the Italian defenders to occupy the passing channels from the scrum-half to the backline and stall England’s attack.
O’Shea, now performance director at the RFU, told Eddie Jones how the idea came about on the Eddie Jones Coaching Podcast.
The idea had formed in the closing moments of a 63-10 defeat to Ireland two weeks before when Italy had been penalised for offside when a tackle had been made, but no ruck had formed. O’Shea discussed the issue with one of the assistant referees and he was convinced he was right. He rang captain Sergio Parisse a few days later and put the wheels in motion on a cunning gameplan.
“It was the one time that I said to the players ‘you do it, I’ll take the rap’.” O'Shea told Jones.
Eddie Jones replied: “It took a lot of courage for you guys to do it. Any time when you’re the underdog and you try to do something at the start of a game that tactically surprises or psychologically surprises the opposition, it’s good coaching.”
He added: “For us, it was a great exercise. When you’re a favourite to win the game, you always think ‘what is the opposition going to bring to try to upset us?’. We didn’t think about that. It took us a while to get to grips with it. It was a great exercise for us.
“I was really happy with the way the players went about it. Everyone says you pick and go, but if you pick and go again and again, it doesn’t get you anything off slow ball. It was difficult to play against and you did it well. It really added to the Six Nations.”
O'Shea also revealed that Danny Care almost found out about the tactic before the game as he was seated next to Ugo Monye at a barber when the former Italian coach phone Moyne to reveal the plan so he could explain to the public.
Listen to Eddie Jones and Conor O'Shea discuss 'ruckgate' for the first time featuring @ugomonye @dannycare and a trip to the barber...— England Rugby (at 🏠) (@EnglandRugby) May 26, 2020
Follow the link to hear it all 👇 Or listen today from wherever you get your pods 🎧
“I rang Ugo [Monye, former England winger and commentator] the day before the game because I knew him well and I also knew that people would not understand the law,” O’Shea said.
“It wasn’t illegal, it was just a loophole. Quite a few people had done this on one occasion, and I said we’re going to do this quite a bit.