Monday, 12 October 2015

Penalty Try question

If I award a penalty try must I always 'sin bin' the offender?

Jim Hawkins

Hi Jim

Good question.  The Law states that...
A penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwisehave been scored. A player who prevents a try being scored through foul play must either becautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.
This would suggest that a Penalty Try must also be accompanied by a Yellow or Red card.  However the IRFU asked for a ruling on this very question back in 2004.  The response from World Rugby is still active.

Ruling in Law by the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee
Law 10.2(a) is Unfair Play relating to Intentional Offending. 
The two paragraphs in Law 10.2(a) must be read in conjunction, having due regard to the heading 'Intentionally Offending'. 
Therefore, if a penalty try is awarded as the result of a player intentionally offending, then the player must be either be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off. 
Examples of this would be after penalty tries resulting from: 
  • a collapsed scrum 
  • a collapsed maul 
  • a defending player intentionally offside 
  • a defending player intentionally knocking down the ball. 
If a penalty try is awarded as the result of a player unintentionally offending, the player, as well as being liable to cautioning and temporary suspension or send off, can be admonished by the referee. 
Examples of this may be after penalty tries resulting from: 
  • mistimed tackle (early or late, but not dangerous) 
  • unintentional reactionary high tackle, but not dangerous.

So the answer to your question is 'No' you don't always have to card the player.
Thanks for the question.
The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Is a tackle in the air always a yellow card?

I have had a debate with a guy at my local club about a tackled player in the air. If it is clear one player has tackled a ball carrier in the air but it is not dangerous but poor timing is it just a penalty kick or a yellow card, my view is a PK?
Thanks for the help?

Hi Allister

The sanction for "Tackling the jumper in the air" is prescribed under Law 10, Foul Play.
10.5 SANCTIONS(a) Any player who infringes any part of the Foul Play Law must be admonished, or cautioned and temporarily suspended for a period of ten minutes’ playing time, or sent-off.
So if the referee decides foul play has been committed it could be just a telling off with a Penalty Kick, a Yellow card, or even a Red card.  World Rugby do however issue guidance to referees from time to time on various areas of the law, and this is one area that was covered recently.
At a meeting in April 2015, the Laws Representation Group (LRG) considered the areas of the Game where, it had been agreed that Law amendments were not required but that current Law was to be enforced by match officials including:
Challenging players in the air - Law 10.4(i)
The options given were: 
  • Play on – Fair challenge with both players in a realistic position to catch the ball. Even if the player(s) land(s) dangerously, play on
  • Penalty only – Fair challenge with wrong timing - No pulling down
  • Yellow card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back or side
  • Red card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player lands on his head, neck or shoulder
There are videos to illustrate the above available here:  World Rugby Enforcement of Current Law

So using the guidance, your example of "one player has tackled a ball carrier in the air but it is not dangerous just poor timing" depends on whether the player was making a fair challenge for the ball?  If he was it's a penalty only.  If he wasn't going for the ball and just tackled the other player in the air, then it's a minimum of a penalty with a yellow card.

Hope that answers your debate Allister.
The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

When is a tackler not a tackler?

At 72:45 did George North not contravene law 15.6(c) and thus a penalty should have been given against Wales before Mike Brown was pinged for holding on? North was clearly part of the tackle but did not go to ground himself and so should have had to re-enter through the tackle gate to attempt to play the ball. Instead, he stops Brown from being able to place the ball while also blocking the England players from clearing out.
"Players in opposition to the ball carrier who remain on their feet who bring the ball carrier to ground so that the player is tackled must release the ball and the ball carrier. Those players may then play the ball providing they are on their feet and do so from behind the ball and from directly behind the tackled player or a tackler closest to those players’ goal line."
Hi Grant

I haven't been able to find the incident you are referring to, so I am going on your description only, with the caveat that the referee at the time may have seen it differently.

If a player is holding a ball carrier who is then tackled (held and brought to ground), but that player does not go to ground himself (a quick knee to the floor is enough to have him deemed as gone to ground), then that player is not a tackler under law.  So we could conceivably have a tackle without a tackler.  This person is normally known as a tackle assist.

Whereas a tackler can release, get to his feet, and then play the ball from any direction; you are correct that a tackle assist cannot play the ball from any direction.  The tackle assist must play the ball from his own side (see below).

This is however a very dynamic area of the game, that changes and evolves very quickly.  How you saw it and how the referee saw it may not be the same.  But as you describe it, you are correct in your thinking.
Law 15.6 (c)
Players in opposition to the ball carrier who remain on their feet who bring the ball carrier to ground so that the player is tackled must release the ball and the ball carrier. Those players may then play the ball providing they are on their feet and do so from behind the ball and from directly behind the tackled player or a tackler closest to those players’ goal line.
The Rugby Ref

Friday, 25 September 2015

John Lacey (Japan v Scotland)

I confess to not being totally au fait with all the laws of rugby union. I was however totally perplexed by a decision Mr. Lacey made near the end of the Japan match. A Scotland back attempted to kick clear from the in goal area, but the ball rebounded from a Japanese player and went dead.The decision was a scrum 5 with put in going to Japan!?
Was this correct?
Hi Roy

Yes this was correct.  When the ball goes dead in in-goal, the main thing is not who made it dead, but who put or made the ball to go into in-goal.

If the attacking team causes the ball to go into in-goal and the ball is then made dead, it's normally a 22 drop out.
If the defending team causes the ball to go into in-goal and the ball then goes dead, it's an attacking scrum 5.

In the scenario you mention Scotland took the ball back into their own in-goal from a ruck I believe. The charge down happened in-goal and the ball went dead, so as Scotland took the ball into in-goal a scrum 5 to Japan was the correct decision.

Had the kick left in-goal and then been charged down by Japan, the charge down would have sent the ball back into in-goal, so then we would be looking at a 22 drop out if the ball went dead.

So to summarise, it's who puts the ball into in-goal that counts.  Not who makes it dead.

Thanks for the question, its a popular misconception.
The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Role of the Assistant Referee (AR) and the Television Match Official (TMO)

I hope a simple question, if either the assistant referee or the TMO suspected that England ‘sheared off’ in the maul and that Peyper should not have awarded the (penalty) try because of this, are they entitled under the TMO protocol in the world cup to request a review.  It was within two phases of the try being scored. 
Many thanks

Hi Andy

Let's look at the relevant Laws.  The pertinent bits are at 6.A.7 (b) (iv) and (c)
The referee may alter a decision when a touch judge has raised the flag to signal touch.The referee may alter a decision when an assistant referee has raised the flag to signal touch or an act of foul play.
(a) The referee may consult with assistant referees about matters relating to their duties, the Law relating to foul play or timekeeping and may request assistance related to otheraspects of the referee’s duties including the adjudication of offside.
(b) A match organiser may appoint an official known as a Television Match Official (TMO) who uses technological devices to clarify situations relating to;
(i) When there is doubt as to whether a ball has been grounded in in-goal for a score or a touchdown.
(ii) Where there is doubt as to whether a kick at goal has been successful.
(iii) Where there is doubt as to whether players were in touch or touch in goal beforegrounding the ball in in-goal or the ball has been made dead.
(iv) Where match officials believe an offence or infringement may have occurred in the field of play leading to a try or preventing a try.
(v) Reviewing situations where match officials believe foul play may have occurred.
(vi) Clarifying sanctions required for acts of foul play.
(c) Any of the match officials including the TMO may recommend a review by the TMO. The reviews will take place in accordance with the TMO protocol in place at the time which will be available at
So the simple answer is 'yes' they are entitled.

You may also like to look at the TMO protocol in place for the World Cup 2015 which is available from this article:

The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Ball travelling 10m at the kick-off.

Law 13.5 states ‘If the ball reaches the opponents’ 10 metre line or reaches the 10 metre line and is blown back, play continues’ 
Can you clarify for me if the ball has to reach the 10 metre line (at least) on the full or can it bounce short and still reach the 10 metre line for play to continue. 
This query came up at a game I was watching at the weekend with different interpretations of the law from ostensibly experienced past players. 
Cheers Steve

Hi Steve

This is a common question.  The ball just has to reach the 10m line (touch it or cross it). It makes no difference how it got there.  Indeed it is possible for a kick off to be a drop-kick grubber-kick and just bobble along the ground to the 10m line.  Or as you say it can bounce once, or go over on the full.

Thanks for the question
The Rugby Ref

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A couple of interesting questions on kicks at goal.

Q1..We often see long range penalty kicks, just clear or bounce off the bar. Are a defending team allowed to use their “line out skills” to lift a player in the same way they do when receiving kick offs, to possibly catch the ball which would otherwise have passed over the bar and accrue 3 points. Because these kicks are from distance they could stand legally with their hands by their sides until the kicker has struck the ball, but would then have adequate time to form up to lift and achieve adequate height to prevent a score. If there is no law one could almost imagine scrum halves being launched like circus acrobats to “save” goals 15ft from the ground.
Q2..Also once a kicker has nominated to “go for goal” from a penalty, who judges whether he makes a genuine attempt at goal. For example penalty given centre of pitch 30 metres out, defending side form up narrowly beneath posts expecting the kick to be converted or ball to go dead. Kicker completely hooks the ball out towards the wing which is picked up by an attacking player wide on the wing coming from an onside position to pick up the ball and score a try wide out. He may have made a genuine attempt at goal, he may be a very astute player who recognized the opposition had “gone to sleep” and “faked” the shot at goal. Is the try awarded and if not what law applies to negate it.

I look forward to your reply.
Thanks and best regards

Hi Patrick, really interesting questions.

Q1.  The answer to this question is in the law book, but not in the most obvious place.

Law 9.  Method of scoring
9.A.2 Kick at goal - special circumstances
(d) Any player who touches the ball in an attempt to prevent a penalty goal being scored is illegally touching the ball.Sanction: Penalty kick

Q2. Another interesting question. To answer the first part "who judges whether he makes a genuine attempt at goal?" Well the answer to that is simple, The Referee is the sole judge.

Law 6.A.4 The duties of the referee in the playing enclosure(a) The referee is the sole judge of fact and of Law during a match. The referee must apply fairly all the Laws of the Game in every match.

To answer the second part, "is the try awarded" we go back to law 9, Method of Scoring.

9.A.2 Kick at goal - special circumstances
(a) If after the ball is kicked, it touches the ground or any team-mate of the kicker, a goal cannot be scored.
So no.  The try isn't awarded.

Thanks for some great questions Patrick.
The Rugby Ref