I don’t write this article as a disrespectful criticism of Italy. But after their opening 6 Nations loss to Scotland, a wave a deja-vu must be washing over their fanbase. Every 6 Nations Italy tout improvements, but can’t quite keep up with their ever-evolving opposition. Here we will look at the Scotland v Italy tactics in detail and find out what Italy are doing well, and what they just can’t get right.
Scotland v Italy Tactics | the problem with a static attack
Here Italy shovel the ball wide, trying to play expansively.
This is ineffective here because no one takes responsibility for taking the ball to the line. They make their passes many metres out from the defence, and Scotland simply drift across. In our article on Scotland, we detailed how Finn Russell was a master of taking the ball to the line and drawing defenders in this game. This is really the opposite of that.
Here again, a similar situation unfolds. This time the Italians at least try to use some dummy-runners.
However what results is perhaps the most unconvincing play in history. The dummy runners move at walking speed with their hands down. Scotland just ignore it completely and move up to make the tackle.
Italy’s slow and uncommitted attack is not well suited for the rush defences it will need to beat in the 6 Nations. Their coach Conor O’Shea can try to fix it, but attacking instinct is only coachable to a certain extent. However as we moved into the final stages of the game, Italy’s substitutions provided a spark of hope.
Scotland v Italy Tactics | Italy’s bright future
Towards the end of the game, Italy brought on some substitutions and began playing with far more aggression and intent. It starts here as Bigi makes a charging run.
This compresses the Scottish defence and leads to space out wide. Substitute Padovani uses footwork to get Italy over the 22.
This all culminates in two substitutes combining for a try. Ruzza shows crazy pace for a lock and takes off. He then gets a brilliant offload to Padovani for the try. This is the type of direct play that can tear apart 6 Nations sides, and Italy owes this one to their bench.
It’s clear there is talent coming through the ranks for Italy. But the problem still remains that without consistent attack and a full squad of committed players, they will be stuck in sixth spot.
Now we must discuss the final reason why Italy can’t keep up in the 6 Nations. Their passive game management.
Scotland v Italy Tactics | a passive game management mindset
Coaches like Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt like to ensure their teams are aggressive in all areas of the game and know exactly what they need to do in all situations. In the article below we discuss Ireland’s military grade decision making, and detail how much effort they put into their roman legion approach.
Italy often don’t seem to have a plan at all and appear to be playing laissez-faire rugby at critical moments. Here they have the ball in the back of the ruck. While they’re organising where it needs to go next in a very casual manner, Scotland rush through and steal it.
This wouldn’t be the only time Italy would lose possession with the ball sitting on their own side of the ruck. But here in a different scenario, the passive attitude is evident again.
Italy have a line-out near halfway on the stroke of half time. The smart thing to do would be to throw the ball around and try and milk a penalty to close the gap. Instead, they allow themselves to be pushed out with little effort.
Unfortunately, these moments hinder Italy’s chances of a 6 nations win any time soon.
Are we being too harsh on Italy? Do you think they can win a game in this 6 Nations? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes