Rugby

All Blacks Coach Speaks Nothing But Sense In His Praise Of Conor O'Shea's Tactics Vs England

All Blacks Coach Speaks Nothing But Sense In His Praise Of Conor O'Shea's Tactics Vs England

After Eddie Jones' classless comments and Matt Dawson's frankly ludicrous Twitter tirade, All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith has jumped to the defence of Conor O'Shea and Italy.

The England head coach and 2003 World Cup-winning scrum-half were critical of O'Shea and Italy for their approach - or lack thereof - to the breakdown, with Italy deliberately preventing the formation of rucks by simply not committing numbers. As such, the game generally lacked an offside line when England has possession, with Italy frequently causing chaos in the English backfield before sliding to a 36-15 defeat.

Italy tactics vs England

Smith, who was part of the All Blacks coaching staff during their 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup triumphs, disagrees with both Jones and Dawson, and doesn't feel Italy's tactics remotely warrant a change in the sport's laws.

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Smith told Stuff.co.nz:

It's a roll of the dice in many ways.

There's an obvious weakness in that you can pull out of the tackle and put no one else in, but it's hard to avoid them pulling you in. So if someone over the ball grabs hold of you, all of a sudden the ruck has been formed and the defensive line has to go back.

It's one of those surprise tactics that I think could work now and again, but you certainly couldn't build your game around it.

I don't think it requires a law change. The law says you require one from each team over the ball bound together to create a ruck. I can't see them changing that. It's not an anomaly in the law, it's just a part of the game, a shock tactic that a team might use now and again but certainly if you became predictable by doing it you'd be cut to bits.

Indeed, New Zealand assistant coach Smith was extremely complimentary towards O'Shea and Italy for having the bottle to try something different during a match in which they were roughly 50-point underdogs.

Smith said:

It's a brave team that tries it.

I think Conor has shown some thinking outside the box and they've been courageous enough to have a crack because there are lot of potential flaws, and not every referee will be in favour of it.

O'Shea passionately defended Italy's totally legal approach during his post-match press conference, and questioned the merit of Jones' pre-match confidence. You can see some of his comments here.

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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