“You haven’t seen a game of rugby,” – that’s what England coach Eddie Jones made of Italy’s Twickenham tactics this weekend. But unfortunately for the Red Rose coach, their struggles to overcome the Azzurri’s methods haven’t done their Six Nations hopes much good.
Italy’s decision to not commit anyone beyond the breakdown into the ruck – therefore rendering all offside rules irrelevant – totally threw England on Sunday.
The visitors’ even led 10-5 at the break, and their tactics drew plenty of praise and criticism in equal measure.
Five second-half tries saw the hosts claim a 36-15 victory – their 17th in succession – but it was the manner in which they struggled to adapt to the play in front of them which will be of concern.
On more than one occasion England players had to consult referee Romain Poite over what Italy were doing was legal.
It certainly was, and Italy aren’t the first to try it.
So, England remain top of the championship with two games to go, but they’ve had their feathers ruffled.
Despite winning, our traders have seen fit to extend England’s Six Nations odds from 1/3 to 4/9.
And Jones will have seen Ireland come from behind to defeat France in Dublin, and in turn, keep the pressure on.
The Emerald Isle have come in from 5/1 before the weekend to 5/2 today. And as things stand, victory for Ireland over England on the final weekend could see Joe Schmidt’s men claim the championship.
Before that though, England must host a resurgent Scotland, who were superb in their 29-13 victory over Wales.
Despite losing skipper Greig Laidlaw and Josh Strauss, the Tartan Army romped away with 20 unanswered second-half points.
The Scots are on course for their best Six Nations in years, and the battle for the Calcutta Cup a week on Saturday will have huge implications for the championship.
England could be under further pressure by then, however, if Ireland can overcome Wales under the lights in a Friday night thriller.
Having won on two of their last three visits to Cardiff, there’s every chance Ireland could be top of the standings by the time Eddie Jones next leads his men out.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing