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'This law needs to change' - Outrage at arcane rule that killed Ireland vs Italy

By Kim Ekin
Referee Nika Amashukeli stops an Italian scrum after they went down to 13 players during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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There was widespread anger online after Italy, already heavy underdogs, were forced to play with thirteen players against Ireland due to an arcane piece of scrum law.


Ireland beat Italy 57-6 in their Guinness Six Nations match in Dublin but the controversial decision made the event something of bloodless coup.

It all started with a red card.

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The Azzurri suffered the major setback in the 19th minute when replacement hooker Hame Faiva, who came on for the injured Gianmarco Lucchesi, was sent off for a high tackle on Sheehan.

Ireland swiftly took advantage as Jamison Gibson-Park crossed, with Carbery adding the extras. However, it got worse for Italy thanks to Law 3.20.

Italy were left two men down after the premature departures of of the stricken Lucchesi and dismissed Faiva led to uncontested scrums, meaning they were required to sacrifice a further player under World Rugby rules.

Number eight Toa Halafihi was the man withdrawn. The game was then effectively over as a contest at the break, with Ireland 24-6 ahead, playing against 13 men and having already secured a bonus point.



Italy international Tommasso Allan tweeted: “What a way to ruin a rugby game…this rule doesn’t make sense”

Bristol Bears prop Max Lahiff, an expert on scrum matters, described it as a shambles, writing: “Gonna have to change the laws after this shambles. Surely?! Yeeesh. Hollow. Despite what would of been.”


Connacht head coach Andy Friend wasn’t impressed; “The longer this game goes on, the more bizarre that ruling becomes. Under the guise of ‘player safety’ (which I fully support), we now ask 13 men + 4 eligible reserves to play for 60 mins against 23 fit players. This law needs to change”

Writer Michael Aylwin branded it an embarrassment. “Just watching #IREvITA on catch up. A sport gets the reputation it deserves. Christ, rugby union is an embarrassment. And to be clear, this red-card madness of the past five years has done next to nothing to reduce concussion. As for CTE, it won’t even do that.”

Reporter Paul Eddison wrote: “Feel bad for Nika Amashukeli, who is a promising young ref and now finds himself in an impossible situation.”

Rugby World writer Alan Dynock branded the rule ‘madness’.

Some did defend the Law, pointing it that it did have a purpose. “If this law didn’t exist, teams could name only one hooker in their 23 and revert to uncontested scrums after one injury or card to the hooker. It’s a law designed to maintain a fair scrum contest which works 95% of the time, but this game is that other 5% of the time.”

Given the stature of the game, expect World Rugby to review the law, or at least issue a clarification.


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