Hartley: Ruck surprise ‘won’t happen again’

Date published: March 2 2017

England captain Dylan Hartley revealed that lessons have been learned from Sunday’s much-discussed victory against Italy, after England appeared slow to react to the visitors’ tactics.

Eddie Jones expressed his frustration after the match, while England scrum-half Danny Care said that Italy head coach Conor O’Shea, his former boss at Harlequins, had “gone from being the most attacking man in rugby to the most negative in one game.”

England are spending this week training in Oxford ahead of facing Scotland but talk about how Italy bamboozled them by not commiting players to the ruck, and therefore legally blocking England’s passing channels by coming round to their side of the tackle, has still led to plenty of discussion.

Hartley admitted that he should have reacted faster and took responsibility when speaking to reporters on Wednesday.

“We have looked at scenarios where if it happens again we can react more quickly,” Hartley told The Guardian.

“Hindsight is a bitch but if I could go back I would have seen what was happening earlier and dealt with it earlier. It took too long in the first half and that’s my fault… it won’t happen again

“For me it’s a good lesson to brush up on the laws and know my stuff. I don’t actually possess a law book but maybe I should get one. I looked in my hotel room and there’s a Bible next to the bed. I should probably replace that.

“I was trying to figure out what was happening. I was confused. Sometimes I saw one or two blue shirts in a ruck and thought it was a ruck but it wasn’t until I saw Edoardo Gori standing in our passing channel that I [realised] what was going on. I questioned the ref but I couldn’t change his mind. So I just rolled with it and we found a way to play around it.

“If it happens again we will be well tooled-up to deal with it.

“It’s been addressed, the scenario is covered and we have learned from it. I think we all know that law now. It was a surprise tactic and it had full effect. But we scored six tries and took five points and a win against difficult opposition. It’s now three wins from three and we move on.”