After The Azzurri held Six Nations leaders England to a nail-biting finale, it has emerged that their innovative but controversial defensive tactics are the result of their new defensive coordinator Mike Slipps.
Mr Slipps, who teaches years 7 to 9 Physical Education at Ocean Finance Academy in Berkshire (formerly Saint Eleanor’s High School) caused havoc with his exploitation of the laws, as he instructed his players not to get involved in the mini-scrum thing that happens when a player is tackled. The massive confusion that followed saw England veteran and cretin James Haskell appeal to referee Romain Poite for advice. In the most fluid exchange of the 80 minutes, Poite quipped “I’m a referee, not a coach”. Such desperate defensive measures arose after Italy conceded a massive 96 points in the opening two rounds of the competition.
The 26-year-old coach came to the attention of the Italian coaching staff when an inspirational video surfaced online of his half-time speech to his junior players. In it, he tells a parable of two men that attempted to cut down a tree, one by hacking at the branches, the other by attacking the trunk. In a climactic ending he urges his pre-pubescent players to hurl themselves at the legs of the dubiously bearded, 6’4 opposition lock – using the badge on his shorts as a target. This sentiment was replicated during Italy’s clash with England as Coach Slipps, or ‘Slippy’ as his mates call him, repeatedly yelled ‘legs!’ as his players failed to bring down man of the match Joe Launchbury. It is also rumoured that the coach was heard to whisper ‘go for the post’ into the ear of Italian kicker Tommaso Allan moments before their 40th minute try.
In a post-match interview with Slippy he opened up about his fresh take on the laws, claiming that he had learnt the tactic after typing ‘how not to get beaten at rugby without trying very hard’ into Google, and discovering a cowardly, stand-offish approach pioneered by Portsmouth University RFC. Regardless of its effect, the tactic proved provocative. England Head Coach, Eddie Jones, dismissed the fixture as “not a game of rugby” and walking shoulder injury Johnny Wilkinson likened the game to netball. In Bedfordshire, Patrick Swain, who played on the wing at school, eloquently explained to the Bedford Blues 1st XV that this particular defensive device can be effective but goes against the ethos of the game. Beyond the informed pundits, celebrities from all over the world weighed in on the debate via Twitter. Dame Judy Dench called the match “a f***ing disgrace”, grime artist Stormzy announced “collaboration with my g Romain Poite coming soon!” and Donald Trump controversially tweeted “I can’t help but watch this disregard for the offside line and think of our own borders”.
Speculations have been made as to how Slippy will prepare his side for their test against a bigger, heavier and more aggressive French team, but one inside source has revealed that, in an attempt to resort the match to uncontested scrums, Italy will be bringing no front row players to Rome. Beyond the Six Nations it has been rumoured that Slippy will be leaving his post at Ocean Finance Academy to replace Mark McCall as Head Coach of Saracens.
One thing is for certain, this rank amateur has left the rugby community with egg on their smashed up faces, and has sparked a debate that may see the laws of the game altered for good.