The piss taking over England’s confusion about Italy’s wheeze on Sunday has continued unabated this week – which probably came as something of a relief for Alun Wyn Jones, who had his own embarrassing moment this weekend.
But the ruck up that gave England problems wasn’t the first controversial ‘tactic’ used in rugby –
The ’99 call’ became as synonymous as the Test series win itself when Willie John McBride’s Lions wrote their name in to rugby folklore. ‘99’ meant everyone should thump the nearest opponent!
A call of ‘99’ would lead to simultaneous retaliation from the tourists so the referee would be unable to identify any single instigator and so would be left with the choice of sending off all or none of the team.
Wales full-back JPR Williams was adamant that it was a crucial component in the team’s success in South Africa. JPR ran 40 yards on one occasion to get to the nearest bloke in a Springbok shirt!
Warren Gatland employed a 14 man line-out against the All Blacks in 2012 –
The entire Welsh team apart from replacement scrum-half Tavis Knoyle joined the lineout and the red swarm thundered over the line, Scott Williams emerged with the ball.
“When Gats called it during the week a few eyebrows were raised but it obviously worked,” said centre Jonathan Davies at the time, while Gatland added: “That’s the way we wanted to take the game to the All Blacks. You’ve got to do that.”
Super Rugby has found a way to avoid a TMO review –
In May last year Wallabies outside-half Christian Lealiifano exploited a glaring loophole to prevent the TMO ruling on questionable tries being scored.
In the first half of a Brumbies-Rebels Super Rugby clash, ACT No.10 Lealiifano scored off what appeared to be a forward pass from James Dargaville, but took a quick drop-goal conversion before referee Rohan Hoffmann or the TMO had time to review it.
World Rugby protocols state that the TMO or the referee can review the play leading up to a try at any point before the goalkicker takes the conversion attempt.
England aren’t the first team to be confused by the laws of their own game either – other sports have highlighted similar problems –
While it seems inconceivable that elite athletes might not be familiar with the rules of the sports they play, there seem to be no shortage of such incidents. In 2003, South Africa captain Shaun Pollock was forced to admit his team had gone out of the Cricket World Cup because of a failure to get to grips with the famously complicated Duckworth-Lewis method after a downpour had interrupted play in their match against Sri Lanka.
Even golf –
In a sport where many rules are largely self-imposed, the sight of golfers summoning tournament officials or referees for on-course advice is far from uncommon, and those who counsel the players undergo a three-tier qualification process to qualify for the job. Even then, confusion is unavoidable. During last year’s US Open, Dustin Johnson was forced to play the closing holes of his final round at Oakmont not knowing whether he had earned a stroke penalty for an infringement on the fifth green. In the end, he finished four clear to win his first major, so the penalty he eventually incurred didn’t matter.
And in America –
In 2008 former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was only the first of several American football players to make fools of themselves by admitting he didn’t know NFL games could end in a tie. Four years later, following a 24-24 tie between his team and the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, St Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola famously confessed to an NBC reporter that he had had no idea the game was over. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Amendola is 31 years old and earns a basic salary of $6m (£4.8m) a year.
Compared with that, at least, the England rugby team look positively whizzo regarding the rules.