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Six Nations - Italy lead England 10-5 at half

28 February 2017

England moved back to the summit of the 2017 Six Nations standings on Sunday after bulldozing their way to a 36-15 win over Italy at Twickenham.

In not committing any men to the breakdown beyond the player who made the initial tackle, Italy made the offside line irrelevant because no ruck had been formed, thus allowing their players to swarm around the ball and disrupt England's quick passing game.

It meant this was a real scare for England, which started the defence of its Six Nations title with narrow wins over France and Wales.

Italy started positively in their trip to London and were nearly first on the scoreboard before Tommaso Allan shifted his early penalty attempt wide of the left post following Nathan Hughes' illegal move at the breakdown.

Parisse tweeted: "This group is behind Conor and the whole coaching staff and will change Italian rugby".

But England World Cup victor Will Greenwood explained the thinking behind the strategy.

"Now World Rugby have to change the laws because of your inability to compete at this level".

World Rugby's view however, is that the law was officiated correctly by Poite. "I'll have to give my money back to Ian Ritchie (the chief executive of England's Rugby Football Union), because no-one's had rugby yet".

Even the positive fans of Italy know the daunting task, especially after their last two matches in which they were outplayed. I'm not happy with what happened today.

"I thought they were outstanding, the simplicity of their tries".

England skipper Dylan Hartley added: "A hard game, and a test for the team". "I was confused by it [but] the guys adapted well".

"That is wonderful for us because we've been patching people up and now we've got a chance to get them really right, so we'll be humming by Scotland". We found something out there that we've never needed to before.

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"Congratulations to Italy. Strategically they were smart today, but it's not rugby so let's be serious about it", said Jones at full-time.

It's unlikely England, or indeed any team, will be caught unaware again in the same way, but the question will continue to rage as to whether Italy were simply streetwise or downright cynical.

CONOR O'SHEA has hit back at Italy's critics, warning: Go pick on someone else.

"World Rugby regularly issue clarifications on various laws, so they could decide to do this anyway due to the interest generated by (Sunday's) match", an RFU spokeswoman said. I played rugby a long time ago, I've coached rugby.

O'Shea insisted that everything that the Italians used to negate the English threat was within the rules and that it was not up to them to play to their opponents liking.

"We beat South Africa and it is a bad South Africa side; we do something different, you can't do that", he said.

"I actually loved it when they kicked for goal (in the second half) as that was a bit of respect and I'm gutted that we finished the game off the way we did". We want to keep the Calcutta Cup here.

'We didn't come here to make up numbers but you're playing against a brilliant team who are on-form and they worked their way through it. Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Bath wing Anthony Watson are welcome additions to the squad, particularly the former, in one of the few positions in which England's resources are a little thin.

There was already the possibility of chaos given a swirling wind inside headquarters; even with it behind him, Owen Farrell - on his 50th appearance - missed touch with one kick during a freakish opening 40 minutes. But he's not going to get into one with me.

Following defeats to Wales and Ireland, Italy are still without a win in the tournament but O'Shea was proud of his side's performance against the reigning champions.

Afterwards the two coaches picked each other's brains, and Conte said: "Eddie is a victor and he is transferring that mentality onto the team". I am sure Bill Beaumont watched that game and will take some action.

Six Nations - Italy lead England 10-5 at half