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'The loser today was not Italy, or Ireland. The game of rugby lost'

By Sam Smith
Referee Nika Amashukeli /PA

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Former Scotland head coach Matt Williams has berated World Rugby over the Guinness Six Nations debacle that was witnessed in Dublin today, where an esoteric law saw Italy reduced to 13 men and an inevitable drubbing at hands of Ireland.

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Andy Farrell’s side thrashed Italy 57-6 but only after the Italians were forced play the majority of the match down two players, all as a result of a little known law around uncontested scrums.

The unfortunate Azzurri battled on two men down for three quarters of Sunday’s match after substitute Hame Faiva was dismissed by referee Nika Amashukeli having just replaced fellow hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi due to injury.

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Those premature departures led to uncontested scrums and, under governing body guidelines, necessitated the removal of a second Italian player, with number eight Toa Halafihi the man sacrificed.

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Ireland took advantage by running in nine tries, including two apiece for outstanding debutant Michael Lowry and the returning James Lowe, to bounce back from defeat to France a fortnight ago.

Former Scotland head Matt Williams took World Rugby to task on the matter, branding the governing body ‘muppets’ for allowing the law to be passed.

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“We’ve got to be the only team sport in the world that constantly shoots ourselves in the foot. If that’s the first game of rugby you’re watching, you are not going to watch a second,” Williams told Virgin Media Sports.

“Many of our laws are not fit for purpose. The players out there and the officials on the field are not to blame. They are simply implementing the law. And it’s not just that law, where Italy are so unlucky to be put down to 13 men. There are so many other laws, but we can’t get into them now.”

“Everyone wants to kick them out of the competition,” Williams added, about Italy. “Man, when you are down you get kicked, don’t you? They got kicked hard, and they didn’t quit…

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“The loser today was not Italy, or Ireland. The game of rugby lost, on the international stage… I would think [that it’s an easy fix], but what I’m astounded by is the muppets have left it in there!”

“It is a damning statement on our game what occurred out there today.”

Andy Farrell expects World Rugby to review its rules after Ireland benefited from a “weird” law.

Italy in fact left the Aviva Stadium field with just 12 men due to Braam Steyn being sin-binned for the final five minutes, leaving Ireland head coach Farrell to reflect on a strange afternoon.

“There’s not many times we’ve played a Test match against 12 players, so there’s plenty we can take away from it,” he said.

“It’s just weird (the law). We understand why the rule was brought in but at the same time I suppose, in situations like that, occasions like that, it’ll bring the rule back to everyone’s attention and they’ll look at it.

“Rightly, Italy were trying to slow the game down, it’s what everyone would have done.

“When you’ve got uncontested scrums for so long in the game, everyone’s legs are nice and fresh and it’s the reason Italy were tenacious in defence, even when they went to 12 men.”

– additional reporting PA

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