England's Mako Vunipola (centre) battles with Italy's Andrea Lovetti (left) during their Six Nations match.
England's Mako Vunipola (centre) battles with Italy's Andrea Lovetti (left) during their Six Nations match. GERRY PENNY

Banning controversial rugby tactic will take time

A LEADING Aussie coach who used Italy's "fox" tactic to score a sneaky try last year says every Super Rugby team will be ready for the "risky" ploy and armed with plans to counter-strike.

The view from Norths and Australian under-20s coach Simon Cron came as it emerged the controversial "no offside" tactic used by Italy against England will not only be still possible in the next round of Super Rugby, but any potential law change by World Rugby probably won't come into effect until 2018.

Italy elicited moans from Eddie Jones by using a law loophole to confound England at Twickenham in their Six Nations clash at the weekend.

Knowing that an offside line is only set when a ruck is formed (which occurs when a second player from the defending team engages a rival over a tackle), Italy kept all other players out of the tackle area.

This allowed them to send players to stand in the English backline, between the halfback and support players.

It looked blatantly offside but technically wasn't and the tactic, dubbed "the fox", caused havoc for the flustered English.

England eventually adapted and won the Test but Jones blew up post-match saying the Azzuri "wasn't playing rugby", comparing it to Trevor Chappel's underarm ball and called for World Rugby to change the laws.

Many praised Italy's street smarts but a law tweak now appears inevitable and World Rugby is reportedly considering the matter.

With a round of Super Rugby commencing on Thursday night in Perth, SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray spoke with all match officials via teleconference on Tuesday. It is understood he used the call to confirm the legality of the tactic and point to Romain Poite's handing of the Italian strategy as correct.

There will be no law changes rushed through this week, and due to the rigid nature of the ruck laws, no wriggle room for World Rugby to issue an revised interpretation either.

SANZAR nations have argued for the loophole to be closed in the past and the first step towards a law change is already under way.

It was identified at World Rugby level as a potential problem in April last year after the Chiefs used it. Indeed, a closed law trial has already been set down for this year that will merge "tackle" and "ruck" into one entity - the "breakdown".

A breakdown - and thus an offside line - will occur when one attacking player is over the ball after a tackle (so, three players). This gives the attacking side power of establishing an offside line.