Italy’s innovative tactics that left England staring a first defeat in 17 matches in the face led to head coach Eddie Jones urging fans to “ask for their money back” after he launched a scathing verbal attack on Conor O’Shea’s outfit.
The Australian Jones joked that his players were about to have a second match at Twickenham because they “haven’t played a game”, and hit out at Italy’s tactics for going against the game of rugby. While he refused to accuse the Italians of tarnishing the name of rugby union, he did admit that he had to stop short of revealing his true feelings.
“If you want to watch rugby like that, good luck to you,” Jones said after the 36-15 victory that keeps England on course for a second straight Six Nations Grand Slam.
“I don’t want to be involved in those sort of games. I’d rather go home, pick up my stumps, put them in the kit bag and go home. If you think that’s smart, fantastic. I don’t think it’s smart rugby.”
It wasn’t the only cricket analogy that Jones was keen to draw upon, as he started his press conference by recalling the infamous underarm bowling incident of 1981, when Greg Chappell asked his brother, Trevor, to bowl at New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie underarm to ensure he couldn’t hit six runs and tie the game with Australia.
“Remember Trevor Chappell? Bowled under arm along the ground, couldn’t hit the ball for six,” Jones recalled. “We saw a Trevor Chappell game of rugby today.”
What Italy did to so annoy Jones was to exploit a particular ruling in World Rugby’s regulations, namely Law 16.1b that regards the formation of a ruck. With Italy refusing to contest the breakdown, a ruck could not legally be formed and so there was no offside line, allowing the Italy defenders to come around the breakdown and prevent the England scrum-half, Danny Care, from passing the ball.
Jones did not see the genius part of the plan though. “We still haven’t played a game. We haven’t played rugby yet. 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,” he added.
“If your half back can’t pass the ball, then there’s something wrong with the game. You’re looking to pass and all you see is one of their players.
“The referee got flustered as well.
“We lost the ruck from the game and when you lose a primary contest from the game it changes the game considerably and it ceases to become rugby.
“If you paid for your ticket, ask for your money back. I’ll have to give my money back to [RFU chief executive] Ian Ritchie, because no-one’s had rugby yet.”
From there on in, Jones refused to answer most questions honestly because “we haven’t played any rugby”, using the response no fewer than nine times during his live broadcast to get his point across.”
Amid the anger – Jones also took exception with one reporter’s questioning of his ability to force his team into an adjustment to combat the tactics – he did have praise for his player’s second half performance, running five tries past Italy following the 10-5 half-time deficit along with securing their first bonus point victory of the campaign.
“I thought the boys did well. They reacted well. Six tries, three wins, a bonus point. Mate, we’re flying,” he added.
“If you said where we wanted to be at the end of three rounds, we’re exactly there. We’re undefeated, we’ve got a bonus point. We’re in a perfect position to go on and win the Six Nations.”