Conor O'Shea: "We're sick of being put down and people having a go at us"

The Italian head coach fights his corner after criticism of his side's tactics against England in the Six Nations

BY Cian Roche 20:41 Monday 27 February 2017, 20:41 27 Feb 2017

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Heading to Twickenham on Sunday afternoon, Italy head coach Conor O'Shea was aware the size of the task ahead of him.

His team were massive underdogs heading into the game and were coming off the back of a heavy defeat to Ireland. Against Joe Schmidt's side they conceded nine tries and for fear of it happening again, something had to change. Something did change.

Italy decided not to compete at the breakdown which eliminated to formation of a ruck from the game. This allowed them to be more aggressive and forward in their tackling, as well as taking the offside line out of the game when they were not in possession after a tackle. 

The laws of the game state that a ruck is formed when "one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground".

Since the Italians decided not to commit players to a tackled player to form a ruck, there was no offside and they were free to advance onto the English players as the ball was passed back.

England head coach Eddie Jones came forward with a scathing review of the game and labelling the Italian tactic as "not rugby".

"We just laugh at that," O'Shea told Monday night's Off The Ball. "My first reaction is that disappointed to lose because we gave ourselves a chance, 70 minutes into the game it was 17-15. To quote Eddie, I think he wanted to 'take Italy to the cleaners'. We wanted to get a bit of respect.

"When Owen Farrell started kicking for goal rather than kicking for the corner, we got that respect. We're disappointed, but we know we have a long hard journey to try and change Italian rugby.  Hopefully people can see that we're trying and we're looking to change. 

"In the game when Australia did it to Ireland through David Pocock, or Wasps scored a winning try against Toulouse, it's tactical genius. When Italy do it, you're not allowed do it. We played within the laws

"We were harshly done by in the first game, for anyone who actually knows the laws. This time again we were completely legal and we tried to win the game. 

"We attacked off scrums, drove off line-outs and kicked to corners, but we know we have a long way to go to match a team like England or indeed Ireland."

Conor O'Shea leaves the field after his Italy side are beaten by England at Twickenham. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Baffled

O'Shea insisted that everything that the Italians used to negate the English threat was within the rules and that it was not up to them to play to their opponents liking.

"We didn't do anything that's not the law. That's the bit that baffles me with all of this. We sat down with the referee on Friday and we'd practiced it all week. We talked about it because it was different, not just to do it once or twice but all the time. We asked the players to stick to that.

"If you actually look at the way the players played, we didn't go and roll over. We didn't try and not play with ball in hand. 

"If we go into this match doing what we've always done, we're going to get badly beaten. Let's give the players hope that we're going with a gameplan and say we're going to have a go and have a crack off scrums.

"I was really proud of the guys' effort. This is a really tough tournament to change and learn in. We're trying to play catch up on a number of nations. We're sick of being put down and people having a go at us. There's a lot we have to change and a lot we have to get right and if we do things differently we can start that process."

He added: "I'll take Eddie's talk with a pinch of salt. We met last night, we had a chat after the game. We swapped texts this morning."

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