Italy's tactic of refusing to ruck that so unsettled England at Twickenham on Sunday almost bit the dust 24 hours before the RBS 6 Nations encounter.

The Azzurri frustrated England's players and coaches with the brainchild of defence coach Brendan Venter, a ploy that boss Conor O'Shea later dubbed 'The Fox'.

That cunning plan was to refuse to engage in rucks, leaving no offside line after a tackle. Italy's half-backs then crowded England's backline, stunting the hosts' approach.

England eventually turned a 10-5 half-time deficit into a bonus-point, 36-15 victory - but a recent tweak to rugby's laws meant the visitors' unusual strategy for the match almost never came to pass.

"When we spoke to (referee) Romain (Poite) and told him what we were doing, he said there had been a change in the laws in the week, which we weren't told about," said Italy head coach O'Shea.

"It meant we couldn't play the number nine. So we had to adapt even between Saturday's meeting and the match."

Italy's original ruse would have been to target England scrum-half Danny Care directly after rejecting any notion of forming a ruck.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

O'Shea's side even practised the pretence all week in the build-up to the clash, only to be told at Saturday's meeting with Poite that they could no longer legally challenge the scrum-half.

While the lack of offside line remained, lawmakers World Rugby had already amended the rule book, deeming a move to take out a scrum-half in that situation to be outside the spirit of the game.

Italy's coaches left that meeting with Poite fearing their plan to be dead in the water, only to realise they could still harass England - without making any contact.

So instead of chasing the nine, Italy's scrum-half Edoardo Gori simply blocked Care's running and passing lines by standing in what would have been offside positions had any rucks been formed.

"There was an offside in our game against Ireland that was clarified as being onside," said O'Shea, explaining that the origin of the tactic came from Italy's 63-10 home loss to Ireland earlier this month.

"Brendan (Venter) came to me and said 'please listen and don't think I'm mad'.

"We talked as a group of coaches and said 'ok, will we go for this?'

"A lot of thought has gone into it and we have a few other animals up our sleeves as well, not just 'The Fox'."