James Haskell has been playing international rugby for a full decade at this point. He made his debut in Cardiff in the 2007 Six Nations. And yet, at 35 minutes yesterday, he and captain Dylan Hartley asked referee Roman Poite what England were supposed to do to create a ruck. Poite was naturally obliged to point out that he is a referee and not a coach.
Nigel Owens, who reffed the Ireland-France game on Saturday, has expressed surprise that experienced players aren't fully appraised of the laws in this area, not least because it is now common practice for teams to receive lectures on the rulings from international referees.
Owens himself has been to see the Welsh team a few times this year, while Wayne Barnes would have spoken to the England players. Not only that but he says this rule is nothing new.
It has been deployed on occasion by the Chiefs in Super Rugby and, according to Owens, the Newport Gwent Dragons tried it in a game in Connacht only last week.
Italy, it should be stressed, are thought to be the first team to cling so doggedly to the tactic for a full game.
He was speaking on Brian Moore's Full Contact rugby podcast on the Daily Telegraph
This tactic was done by the Chiefs in Super Rugby about two seasons ago and its been done by teams more recently.
The Dragons did it on a few occasions when I was refereeing out in Connacht last week this is nothing new and something we referees have discussed how we’re going to referee it.
We’ve been made aware it’s a tactic that’s within the laws of the game whether we agree with it of like it or not.
I am surprised because I’ve been with the Welsh squad two or three times this year going through different things and refereeing contact sessions.
Wayne Barnes was in with England last week. JP Doyle and a few English referees have been in as well earlier discussing a few things. But whether they’ve discussed this particular thing I would be very surprised if they haven’t. I’d be surprised if players didn’t know this.
James Haskell asked the question what is a ruck, and he doesn’t know what it is. I am surprised at players not knowing this because international referees tend to go in with their respective national squads and discuss stuff like this.
It is Wayne Barnes, incidentally, who will referee Ireland's next game in Cardiff, our first Friday night game in this competition. It will be the sixth time Wayne Barnes has refereed the fixture in the last decade (2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017). They love what he's done with the match.