James Haskell has defended himself over his questioning of referee Romain Poite during the 36-15 victory over Italy that left England “rattled”, with the flanker claiming he was misinterpreted by the French official.
Both Haskell and his captain, Dylan Hartley, engaged in a lengthy conversation with Poite while the Italian scrum-half, Edoardo Gori, received treatment on a head injury. Ironically, it was Gori who was causing the root of England’s problems, as he repeatedly stood in the channel between the England scrum-half and fly-half after Italy deployed tactics to avoid any rucks and subsequently remove the offside line.
During the pause in play shortly after the half-hour mark, Haskell was heard to ask Poite: “We just wanted to know what the rule was, what the exact rule is?”
The response was: “If there is no ruck, there is just a barrier around the tackle on the ground making an offside line that is not set”. Quizzed further by Haskell and Hartley, Poite reminded them “I am the referee and not your coach”.
It took a half-time adjustment from Eddie Jones to get England playing in a way that would negate the Italian “foxes”, as Italy coach Conor O’Shea called them, from creeping round the fringe, but the second-half recovery did not stop Haskell receiving some flack on social media for his on-field comments.
“It was probably a bit of boring game and a weird one to play in,” Haskell said after the match. “It probably sent people scurrying to the law book to see what is a ruck. I tried to ask the referee what he wanted to see and he misinterpreted it. I wasn’t asking what the rule was I was asking what he needed to see at the breakdown, because I felt we were playing a break down at times but apparently not.
“I wanted to know who we could take into the breakdown if they were standing off or if we could scatter ruck. He answered the first time that he wasn’t my coach and I said no that isn’t what I am saying I…