Eddie Jones' side struggled to cope with Italy's tactics on Sunday
England's confusion over the use of a ruck is still causing surprise in rugby circles.
Eddie Jones' side struggled with Italian tactics in the first-half of Sunday's Six Nations match, as the away side regularly refused to form a ruck. The tactic meant there was regularly no offside line.
England's captain Dylan Hartley, along with senior player James Haskell spoke to referee Roman Poite on numerous occasions, trying to gain guidance about how best to react to Italy's game plan.
Speaking to Brian Moore's Full Contact, 2015 World Cup final referee Nigel Owens said he was surprised with the English players not knowing the rule, as it was a tactic regularly used around the world.
"This tactic was done by the Chiefs in Super Rugby about two years ago and its been done quite recently by a few teams. The Dragons did it last week on a couple of occasions when I was refereeing out in Connacht. It's nothing new. It's something we referees have discussed of 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."
Owens then spoke in detail about the intricacies of forming a ruck, and how the offside line is judged. The Welsh referee revealed he did not understand how the team could be ignorant to such a key rule of the game.
"I am surprised because I’ve been in with the Welsh squad two or three times this year going through different things and refereeing some contact sessions, and explaining a couple of things to them. Wayne Barnes was in with England last week. JP Doyle and a few of the English referees have been in with England as well . Whether or not, they’ve discussed this thing - I would be very surprised if they haven’t... I’d be surprised if players dont know this [rule]."
"I believe James Haskell asked the question; 'What is a ruck?'. If he asked that question, he doesn’t know what it is... I'm surprised that they don't know."
Owens will not be refereeing a game in the final two rounds of the competition, but he will be an Assistant Referee for Italy's games with France and Scotland.