Monday, 9 July 2018

When a scrum half attempts to hide misbehavior at a penalty restart

To the Rugby Ref 
A few times per season in club or high school rugby here in the US, I see (usually) a scrum half take a penalty by standing in front of the ball at the referee's mark; then with ball in hand and with his back to the opponents (obviously striving to hide his actions from them) who are 10 metres away, will restart play. The scrummie will pretend to touch the ball to his foot (and may or may not do so) and will virtually never actually propel the ball out of hand. 
Most refs ignore all parts of this; 
a) that the scrummie is often in front of the mark, 
b) that the ball often fails to even touch the foot and 
c) almost never actually leaves the scrummie's hand and thus was not propelled by the foot, a.k.a., it was not a kick. 
Since the defending captain cannot see these nefarious actions, I cannot even urge our captain to address the referee about it. I have seen one excellent South African ref a few years ago discipline such players but it seems rare, at least here in NA. Any comments please?
Hi Claude

A few questions there, so lets look at them one at a time.

First of all there is nothing in law to prevent a player from taking a penalty kick with his back to the opposition. In fact the law actually states that the kick may be taken in any direction, so that is fine.

The kick must be taken on the mark or on a line behind it, however most referees will be happy if the kick is taken near the mark.  This is because the referee may not have time to make an actual mark if the non offending team want to go quickly.  We don't want to stop teams playing quickly so as long as the kick is within a meter of the mark they will usually be allowed to play on.  If a team does take a penalty kick from the wrong place, the law merely says the kick must be retaken from the correct place.  So it would be very pedantic of a referee to make a team retake a kick for being a little bit in front of the mark.

Regarding the ball not touching the foot or not leaving the hands, that is entirely different.  The quick tap is a skill that must be learned and we shouldn't allow players to ignore it.  The law says the ball must visibly leave the hands, or be kicked off the mark.  If it isn't then the opposition get a scrum at the mark.  However The Rugby Referee would expect to warn a scrum half the first time this happens, then award a scrum if it persists. 

Some referees may think it's being pedantic to award the scrum, but it shouldn't be ignored, except maybe with young children who don't have the skill to perform a quick tap. We don't want to discourage youngsters from playing, but once they get to around 13 or 14 we shouldn't allow them to ignore the law.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 18 June 2018

Deliberate knock on.

I have a question regarding the referee's sanction for a deliberate knock on. 
In most Super Rugby games and most internationals, a Yellow Card is awarded yet my understanding is that a penalty is the sanction recommended under Law 11. 
Why are referees awarding Yellow Cards for this then?  It's very frustrating as was seen in the Australia v Ireland game today when some were penalised and one was Yellow Carded.
Any clarification on this would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Rob

Good question, when does a referee decide to issue a yellow card?  This is not just a deliberate knock on question, it can apply to many offences.

Generally speaking referees may issue a yellow card for one of the following reasons:

  • Repeat offending by a team
  • Repeat offending by a player
  • Deliberate offending by a player (cynical offence)
  • Preventing a possible try or breakaway

A deliberate knock on would usually fall under the last two on that list. If the deliberate knock on was a blatant attempt to stop the attack, or disrupt a pass that may have broken the gain line it could be a yellow card offence.  If it happens near the offending teams goal line it will almost certainly be a yellow card and maybe even a penalty try, but at the other end of the field it would only be a penalty.  

A deliberate knock on may just be a clumsy attempt at intercepting the ball, rather than a "professional foul".  

So the referee has to balance many things when deciding on a sanction.  Was it deliberate or accidental?  Was it just clumsy or just a lack of skill?  Where did the offence happen on the field?  What might have happened next?  All of this goes through the referees mind in a split second.

At the top end of the game referees also get directives as a group to deal with trends in the game that World Rugby or the Unions decide is becoming a problem.  So if it not impossible that deliberate knock on's have become more prevalent and a tactic to disrupt the flow of the game in Super Rugby, and referees have been told to come down hard on it.  If that is the case then all of the teams involved will probably have been warned in advance about this.

The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Tackled player releasing the ball?

Dear Rugby Ref;
Law 14. item 7a, does not say nor imply that a tackled player may, while lying on the ground, hold the ball up in the air for a number of seconds on the back side of a ruck waiting for a teammate to grasp the ball in a hand-to-hand transfer. How can this be legal? Are referees simply letting players get away without complying with "Make the ball available so that play can continue by releasing, passing or pushing the ball...?" 
Claude Hughes 
U19 Backs Coach 
Hi Claude

A tackled player must, as you state, do the following:
Law 14
7. Tackled players must immediately:
a. Make the ball available so that play can continue by releasing, passing or pushingthe ball in any direction except forward. They may place the ball in any direction.
b. Move away from the ball or get up.
c. Ensure that they do not lie on, over or near the ball to prevent opposition playersfrom gaining possession of it.
The key phrases for the referee are "Make the ball available so that play can continue" and "Ensure they do not...prevent opposition players from gaining possession".

In other words, the referee is looking for a fair contest and not having to blow the whistle unless necessary, to keep the game flowing.

Whether the tackled player holds the ball on the ground, or a few inches off it doesn't matter as long as it has no material affect on the game.  If an opposition player legally makes a play for the ball and the tackled player releases it...Play on.  If the tackled player prevents the opposition from playing the ball, he should be penalised.

What you describe is not technically legal, but it's not really illegal either.  It's what happens next that really counts. Let's look for ways to keep the game going, not for ways to penalise players on a technicality.  After all how many times do you see a tackled player penalised for 7b, not moving away from the ball?  Never, unless they prevent the ball from being played.

Thanks for the question.
The Rugby Ref

Monday, 9 April 2018

Scrums and Penalty Tries

Hi there,
I have a question about scrums and penalty tries. Quite a common scenario. Attacking team on the defending team's 5 metre line. Several scrums keep getting called due to the defending team's scrum collapsing/standing/prop losing his bind etc. My question is, when does the ref give a yellow to the offending prop, and when does he give a penalty try? I've seen matches (like the Bath Leicester game I'm currently watching) where it goes on forever. Constantly resetting scrums through a penalty, giving 1 or 2 yellow cards to the props. Not good to watch. What is the decision on whether to give a yellow or a penalty try (and possibly a yellow as well as a penalty try??)?
Kind Regards,Calum Robertson
Hi Calum

This is actually two questions, yellow cards for repeat offending and penalty tries.
Repeat offending by a team is covered in law 9.8
8. A team must not repeatedly commit the same offence.
9. A player must not repeatedly infringe the laws.Sanction: Penalty.
10. When different players of the same team repeatedly commit the same offence, thereferee gives a general caution to the team and if they then repeat the offence, thereferee temporarily suspends the guilty player(s).
 Generally speaking if a team (or an individual player) commits the same offence two or three times in a short space of time, then the referee will warn the team.  If they then offend again he may issue a yellow card for repeat offending.

Penalty tries are covered by law 8.3
3. A penalty try is awarded between the goal posts if foul play by the opposing teamprevents a probable try from being scored, or scored in a more advantageous position. Aplayer guilty of this must be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.
So two points from Law 8.3 first the offence must be foul play, so listed under Law 9.  Second the offence must have stopped a probable try.

In the example of a scrum on the 5m line a prop might intentionally collapse the scrum, which is foul play.  If he (or the team) does this repeatedly, then the referee may warn them, followed by a yellow card if it continues.  However this would only lead to a penalty try if a try would probably have been scored if the scrum hadn't collapsed.  So essentially a referee would look for the attacking team to have got the scrum moving forward and be heading for a try.  If the defending team then collapses the scrum to prevent the try from being scored the referee may award a penalty try.

You are right to ask the question as many people think that a penalty try should be given just because a scrum is collapsed on the 5m line.  But if the scrum is static, or the ball hasn't been hooked by the attackers, then is is not necessarily probable that a try would have been scored as a result.

Thanks for the question Calum
The Rugby Ref hopes that explains it for you.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Minimum number of players

Hi, if i start with 7 players on the pitch, and no subs, what is the minimum number of players i must have on the pitch before the game is forfeit,  if i have injuries that can't continue? thanks.

Interesting question.  The law is silent on the minimum number of players required to be in a team, the only thing it mentions is that there has to be a minimum of 5 players in a scrum.  So assuming you also need to have a someone to put the ball into a scrum, then 6 a side is as low as you can go.

Having said that league and competition regulations will often cover this, especially at the lower levels, but this usually covers how many players you need to start a match, not how many you need to finish it.

So in the absence of any other information The Rugby Ref would say 6 to a side.

The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Tackling a player in the air

Players being tackled whilst in the air has become one of the big taboos in the modern game, and rightly so in certain circumstances. My question is on a situation out of the norm.
Anyone who watched the England v Wales match this season will have applauded Sam Underhill's superb try saving tackle on Scott Williams. If you didn't see it, Williams dived early and tried to slide for the try line in the corner, and Underhill grabbed him and rolled him into touch. What if Williams had dived for the corner but had stayed up in the air? If Underhill had tackled him then and got him into touch, would it have been a penalty try and a yellow card?

Hi John

You are correct that the law says you cannot tackle a player in the air.  Specifically it says:
Law 9
17. A player must not tackle, charge, pull, push or grasp an opponent whose feet are off the ground.
However we have to careful taking the law literally.  When a player is running there are times when both feet are off the floor, but that does not mean you cannot tackle a running player, so a little common sense has to come into play.

In your example, providing the tackle wasn't dangerous it would be allowed, otherwise the game would be unplayable.  Dangerous might involve no arms in the tackle.

I think we all know what the law means?  You cannot tackle a player who is jumping for a ball, or who has been lifted for the ball and has not returned to the ground.  That player is in a vulnerable position and safety dictates we must protect them.

Good question though John.
The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 8 March 2018

New ruck law

Hello, according to the new ruck law... after a tackle, if the tackler gets on their feet (of course from his side too) and then stands over the ball... is a ruck formed ?... or the ruck will be formed always by a 3rd arriving player ?
Diego S. Cicero
Hi Diego

First of all this New Ruck Law is only a trial at the moment, however the simple answer to your question is 'Yes" a ruck is formed.

Here is the wording from the World Rugby Global Law Trials (GLTs)
Law 16: Amended Ruck Law
A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside line is created. A player on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives no hands can be used.
Guidance Notes:The “one man” ruck only applies after a tackle and that normal ruck law applies to all other situations e.g. player voluntarily going to ground, ball on ground in open play etc. The offside line is formed when a player from either team arrive over the ball.
 So for this new one player ruck first we have to have a tackle, it doesn't apply to a single player going to ground to gather a loose ball for example.  If this player is the tackler and he legally enters (or re-enters) the tackle zone to stand over the ball then a one man ruck is formed.  It might help to think of it as a tackle zone with offside lines.  (Remember that this was brought in to counteract the negative play from Italy of standing around the tackle area to stifle play.)  This player may play the ball providing he does so immediately.  As soon as an opposition player arrives no hands can be used.

It doesn't necessarily look like a conventional ruck (which is why it might help to think of it as a tackle with offside lines), but the ruck laws apply.

Great question Diego
The Rugby Ref