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Why Italy were forced to play with 13 men against Ireland explained

By Paul Smith
(Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Italy’s team and fans watching both in the Aviva Stadium and on TV were left baffled when the Azzurri were required to play an hour of their round three Six Nations clash with Ireland with 13 players.

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The visitors’ captain Michele Lamaro was aghast when, in the wake of the red card shown to replacement hooker Hame Faiva, Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli advised him that a second member of his team needed to also depart.

The unfortunate Amashukeli who was making his Six Nations debut, checked his understanding of law with his touch judge, experienced English international referee Matthew Carley, and the fourth official before insisting that Italy sent an additional player to the bench.

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Laidlaw on Russell
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Laidlaw on Russell

Italy then withdrew debutant winger Pierre Bruno and the contest continued with 13 Italians facing a rampant 15-strong Ireland.

The situation occurred because Italy had already lost starting hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi, who left the field with his arm in a makeshift sling, following a shoulder injury.

The loss of his replacement Faiva to a red card (rather than another injury) coupled with the fact that Italy had no other available trained hooker within their 23-man squad meant the scrums for safety reasons had to be played on an uncontested basis.

In World Rugby’s latest version of the laws this means the team causing the uncontested scrums loses an additional player. In an uncontested scrum neither side pushes and the team feeding the ball must win possession.

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This law amendment was put in place to prevent teams attempting to minimise the damage done by the red card by bringing on a faster player – perhaps a back-rower – to stand in uncontested scrums against opponents who still have three ‘proper’ front rowers on the field.

It is dealt with by the law application guideline dealing with uncontested scrums following a red card:

  1. If the team cannot field a suitable front row uncontested scrums must be ordered. The permanently suspended player cannot be replaced.
  2. The permanent suspended player caused uncontested scrums to be ordered therefore the team lose a player. The team must nominate a player to leave the field.
  3. A remaining substitute front rower must be used in the front row of the uncontested scrums. Another player must be nominated to leave the field to allow him/her to come on to the field to play.
  4. The team plays with 13 players for the remainder of the match.
  5. Both teams must form with eight players in the scrum

Had one of Italy’s remaining replacements (or another player already on the field) been trained to play safely at hooker this situation would not have occurred since the match would have continued with contested scrums.

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