Too many “little stones” on a pitch in Italy caused the England U-18 schools rugby management to pull out of their game against Ireland on Saturday.
A mouth-watering matchup between the two unbeaten teams in the U-18 schools five nations rugby festival taking place in Parma was scratched when English officials deemed the surface unplayable for their young men.
This despite the fact that local children had combed the field for the offending pebbles and all four match officials had given the Colorno pitch the green light for action.
England had gone four for four with hugely one-sided wins over Scotland, Japan, Italy and Scotland, while Ireland had beaten the much-fancied Welsh team and hosts Italy ahead of the showdown.
But there would be no game between the much-improved Irish side and their English counterparts. Neither the Irish nor the tournament organizers were thrilled by the English decision, which deprived the Irish students a shot at beating the English, and deprived the rugby fans gathered in Parma a chance to watch arguably the marquee game of the festival.
"From our point of view, we are extremely disappointed, given all the efforts of the Italians and the agreement the pitch was playable by Ireland and the referee (Chris Williams), that England were unable to participate in the match,” Six Nations Operations Director Jon Davis told irishrugby.ie.
“It may have repercussions at Six Nations level where it will be discussed at the Council Meeting in May."
Maybe it was a case of too many little stones and not enough balls.