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Fallout from Italy's ruck tactics lingers

Press Association logoPress Association 1/03/2017 Duncan Bech

England skipper Dylan Hartley is considering swapping the Bible for rugby's law book after accepting responsibility for England's slow reaction to Italy's tactics at Twickenham on Sunday.

The Red Rose's Grand Slam defence remains intact after they emerged conclusive 36-15 winners, but the Azzurri's controversial strategy of refusing to engage in rucks has sparked a global debate within the game.

Eddie Jones has called for World Rugby to change the breakdown laws, saying "If that's rugby, I'm going to retire", but the Australian's fury has also served to camouflage the shortcomings of his team.

It took them until the second half to adapt to the ploy, while senior players appeared to demonstrate an incomplete grasp of the laws during conversations with referee Romain Poite.

When asked if he would study the law book in the wake of Sunday's events at Twickenham, England captain Hartley said: "Of course I will. I have. I think we all know that law now. We're all pretty clear on that.

"I looked in my room (at the squad's Surrey training base) and there's a Bible next to the bed. I should probably replace that. For me it's a good lesson to brush up on the laws and know my stuff.

"I'll brush up by reading the book and talking to coaches. I don't actually possess a book - maybe I should get one? I'm brushed up."

Hartley admits he was to blame for the time it took England to adjust to tactics that have been used before at club and international level, but never in such wholesale fashion.

"That was a Test match and it was a test that we passed. But we have looked at scenarios where if it happens again we can react more quickly. That is my biggest learning," he said.

"Hindsight is wonderful and if I could go back I would have seen what was happening earlier and dealt with it earlier. But it's a learning, it won't happen again.

"It took too long in the first half and that's my fault. I was trying to figure out what was happening. I was confused.

"Sometimes I saw one or two blue shirts in a ruck, thought it was a ruck but it wasn't until I saw (scrum-half) Edoardo Gori standing in our passing channel (that I realised what was happening)."

England resume their RBS 6 Nations title defence against Scotland on Saturday week, when they will be seeking an 18th successive Test victory which would equal the world record set by New Zealand.

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