ITAL­IANS WERE JUST IN­VEN­TIVE

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - SPORT - BY ALEX SPINK

THE Ital­ian plan that drove Ed­die Jones nuts was hatched by a man Conor O’shea calls the Mad Doc­tor. Bren­dan Ven­ter, a World Cup win­ner who com­bines coach­ing rugby with run­ning a med­i­cal prac­tice in Cape Town, ap­proached Az­zurri boss O’shea days be­fore the Twick­en­ham show­down. Italy were reel­ing from heavy home losses to Wales and Ire­land and against the Grand Slam cham­pi­ons were given a snow­ball’s chance in hell. “I’ve got this idea,” Ven­ter said. “Please, please don’t think I’m mad. Hear me out.” He be­gan to ex­plain his idea of ruck­less rugby and how he thought it could not only frus­trate Eng­land but give the 50-1 no-hop­ers a chance. When he had fin­ished Dubliner O’shea thought of some­thing Clive Woodward said when he signed him to play for London Ir­ish in 1995. “Clive said to me, ‘Conor, the prob­lem with you guys in Ire­land is you never think dif­fer­ently,” O’shea re­called. With that he put Ven­ter’s plan to the rest of the coach­ing staff. “Let’s roll the dice,” said O’shea. What hap­pened was that Italy ex­posed Eng­land’s lack of men­tal flex­i­bil­ity to such an ex­tent that the vis­i­tors led at half-time and were still within two points with 10 min­utes to play. “We said to the play­ers, ‘Lis­ten, if this doesn’t work we’ll take the blame, not you, so do it for 80 min­utes’,” O’shea re­vealed. “‘I want us to be a re­ally ir­ri­tat­ing team to play against so, no mat­ter what, stick to the plan’.” Jones ac­cused Italy of tac­tics con­trary to the spirit of the game. It was a sour re­sponse to gen­uine in­no­va­tion and Ven­ter took is­sue with those who viewed it as a tactic de­signed purely for dam­age lim­i­ta­tion. “The ob­ject was to beat Eng­land. Not keep the score down,” he tweeted. “We needed turnovers and got them. “If Italy were bet­ter con­di­tioned they could have beaten Eng­land. Just ran out of gas. We con­sider it an in­sult if some­one thinks we turn up to keep the score down.” Ven­ter is be­ing linked with a coach­ing job in the South Africa set-up but he is not done with Italy. “What we did at Twick­en­ham was to chal­lenge peo­ple’s minds,” O’shea said, as the RFU con­firmed no Eng­land fan had fol­lowed Jones’ ad­vice and asked for a re­fund. “In­no­va­tion is what we need. If you stand in front of a group of play­ers and say you’re go­ing to do the same thing and get a dif­fer­ent re­sult, they’ll laugh at you. “We wanted to give them hope that they weren’t just go­ing to fill a pitch and be here like the old glad­i­a­tors with the crowd want­ing the hun­dred [points].” Ire­land flanker Peter O’ma­hony in­sisted it was a tactic Italy were well within their rights to use. He said: “I thought they put Eng­land un­der pres­sure. Ob­vi­ously it wasn’t the great­est game to watch but it’s a tactic they used very ef­fi­ciently. “You can shout and roar and scream all you want about it, ex-play­ers and stuff, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. That’s the law.”

Tac­tics O'Shea (cen­tre) and Ven­ter (right) on Sun­day

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