A previous post on this blog drew attention to the way sporting and economic competitors use their knowledge of the rules to their advantage (here). The sporting examples in that post also came from rugby. Some were very similar to what happened on Sunday. The economic examples came from the world of corporation of tax rules. An overriding principle for both sets of rules is that all competitors should be able to play by the same rules. On Sunday there was nothing to stop the English doing exactly what the Italians were doing. In fact, they did engage in such activity in the second-half as the video shows.
Because the English engaged in the same tactics, they can have no explicit complaints about the fairness of the rules. But the English coach did complain. On the surface he complained about the integrity of the game and the value for money achieved by spectators.
Eddie Jones, the experienced English coach, surely knows that history shows that some of those who do not believe they can compete, under existing rules and conventions, will decide to take matters into their own hands. It happens in sport, business, politics and war. Those in any doubt should read Lawrence Freedman's Strategy: A History. Freedman notes the biblical passage that says the race is does not always go to the swift or the battle to the strong, but Freedman adds Damien Runyon's words "but that is the way to bet". Innovative strategies can have short-run success for weaker opponents but ultimately they will lose their surprise element or be imitated.
Freedman devotes some time and space to the economics approach to strategy. Not surprisingly, Thomas Schelling gets a fair amount of favourable coverage. Freedman also devotes some space to game theory. Friedman says that "Schelling's relationship to game theory was equivocal". and that he "preferred to reason through analogy in ways that purists found maddening". Schelling's most famous analogies are not taken from sport but he did use analogies taken from sport.
One would think that sport and strategy are obvious bedfellows. Economics also lays claim to the study of strategy. So, I often wonder why strategy does not loom larger in the economics of sport.