Italy ruck tactics no silver bullet: Phipps

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs scrumhalf Nick Phipps doesn’t expect to see Italy’s ruck tactics replicated too often around the world.

Italy made the most of a loophole in breakdown laws against England, ensuring they didn’t commit multiple players to a breakdown, meaning a ruck was never formed and thus there was no offside line.

The gap in the law has been noticed by the game's administrators and New Zealand trialled a law interpretation to combat the grey area in its provincial competition last season, though it was not adopted in 2017.

It’s a move the Chiefs have used in Super Rugby in recent times but Phipps said it’s by no means a silver bullet.

“That’s a tactic used sparingly around the place,” he said from South Africa.

Italy targeted England's scrumhalves. Photo: Getty Images“There’s a good and bad to both sides of the tactic. It unsettles teams but it leaves a lot of holes in the breakdown, when you’re shooting off down the line.

“I don’t know where it’ll lead now - I know Eddie Jones didn’t like it.

“It wouldn’t be good to see it as a continuous sort of thing but for them (Italy) it was a great tactic and had them right in it (in the first half of their match against England).”

Phipps and the Waratahs arrived in Johannesburg on Monday, ahead of Sunday morning’s (AEDT) clash, with a mission to improve on a rain-affected grind in round one against the Western Force at Allianz Stadium.

“It was one of those nights where were were just happy and relieved to get the four points, but it left a little bit of a (bitter) taste for the younger guys,” Phipps said of their 19-13 win in Sydney.

“They certainly wanted to play that (attacking) style and they’ve been watching the Waratahs play exciting footy and they were probably left a little disappointed even though they got that four points.

“Hopefully we can bring that game as well this weekend and see where we sit.”

This weekend’s clash with the Lions will be a litmus test, with last year’s breakout halves pairing, Faf De Klerk and Elton Jantjies.

The Waratahs got home over the Stormers last year to turn their season around. Photo: Getty ImagesLast year’s South African sojourn was a turning point for a slow-starting Waratahs side, with a win over the Stormers kickstarting their season, and Phipps said winning on the tough road trip could set their season up.

“I think you’ll find any team that has a good season, they have a good South Africa trip,” he said.

“We know that if we can come over here and get a couple of wins, it’s really going to set us up.

“Teams play their best footy at home, get in there early and catch a couple of teams early on would be fantastic for our season ahead.” - Nick Phipps

Phipps will be hoping to welcome back his regular No.10, Bernard Foley, this weekend, after the Wallabies flyhalf missed the opening round with the affect effects of a knock in the Tahs final trail against the Highlanders at Brookvale Oval.

Foley will need to get through the Waratahs’ Tuesday training session as well as continued concussion testing to be cleared for Sunday.

The Waratahs take on the Lions at 12:05am Sunday morning AEDT.

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