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Italian Players in English Territory

In Saturday's England 36-15 victory over Italy at Twickenham, the visitors employed an unusual, but perfectly legal, maneuver in the second half to confuse the home side. The Italians did not contest English rucks, which allowed them to place men along side English backs, thus, disrupting passes or balls kicked back from the ruck. (See photo above.)

The offside law prohibits players moving forward via an invisible line that goes from the emerging ruck, unless passing through an imaginary gate.  The law defines that the configuration a ruck commences when “at least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent."

When the Azzurri did not dispute possession after the tackle of an English player, there was no ruck. It is clear, according to this time-honored rule that the Italian players could advance past the tackle area without fear of being called for an offside penalty.

England coach Eddie Jones complained that "it wasn't rugby and fans should demand a refund."

But everyone, including World Rugby, affirmed the tactic, although rarely employed, was legit.