Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Advantage query

Hello the Rugby Ref!
I had two queries about advantage I wondered if you could help with.
1) Law 8.3e states the following:
After the ball has been made dead. Advantage cannot be played after the ball has been made dead.
So does this mean advantage finishes if the team appears to deliberately put the ball into touch (e.g. kick up field)? And what if they did it accidentally (e.g. fling a long pass to the winger but it goes out instead)? Even if you're playing penalty advantage for an infringement, it becomes a lineout for the opposite team?
2) Law 8.5b states that:
If advantage is being played following an infringement by one team and then the other team commit an infringement, the referee blows the whistle and applies the sanctions associated with the first infringement. If either infringement is for foul play, the referee applies the appropriate sanction for that offence. The referee may also temporarily suspend, or order off, the offending player.
I wondered what you do if both infringements are of equal weight, e.g both penalty offences (such as offside) or both foul play offences (e.g. dangerous tackle)? Who gets the penalty?
Thank you very much
Melissa Wright

Hi Melissa

Good questions.

Question 1. Advantage cannot be played after the ball goes dead. So let's suppose the blue team is playing with penalty advantage and kick the ball ahead.  It hits a red player and goes into touch. The blue team cannot take a quick throw in and continue to play with the penalty advantage.

The ball was made dead from going into touch, so you cannot continue with the advantage, it must be either advantage over, or go back for the penalty.  For that you have to think "what would the team reasonably have expected to get from the original offence".

In your scenarios, if they accidentally threw the ball into touch from a wild pass from a penalty advantage I would probably come back for the original offence.
If they kicked the ball ahead (out of free choice, not under pressure) from a scrum advantage I would call advantage over while the ball was in the air because they had the freedom to play the ball as they chose.  The result of the kick is almost immaterial, the advantage doesn't allow them to get a second kick if the first one is bad because the most they would have got from a scrum advantage is clean ball from the scrum and a kick ahead.
A kick ahead from a penalty advantage is a different thing because what they would have expected to get from the penalty is a kick to touch with their throw in.  If they don't get something similar then we would come back for the penalty.

Question 2. Foul play trumps a technical offence such as a knock on; it is more serious.  For two technical offences, such as two knock on's, you come back for the first one.  If the second offence is foul play then you go with that.  If both offences are for foul play you must judge which is the more serious.Think of it this way, having advantage does not give the other team free rein to punch someone without sanction. If they did that they would pay the consequences for their actions.

Hope that all makes sense.
The Rugby Ref

Friday, 16 December 2016

When is it not a ruck?

I have played and/or coached rugby union in Scotland and the US since 1974. I am currently an assistant coach for a U19 men's team. 
The definition of a ruck includes "...close around the ball on the ground."  So how close is close? How far away is no longer "close?"
I often see a first offensive rucker fly in "through the gate" going 1 or 2 or more meters past the tackled player (and ball) to "clear the threat" and then binding (actually tackling) a defensive player who may or may not be advancing "through the gate" on his side. Is that a ruck? When is it illegal, perhaps a violation like tackling a defensive player who does not have the ball or maybe obstruction?
Particularly in this setting where the first offensive rucker is 1, 2 or more meters away from the tackled player & ball, if the first defensive rucker simply escorts/allows or even binds and pulls that first offensive rucker backwards a few more meters down the pitch away from the tackled player & ball, when can a second defensive rucker just step into the wide open space to "enter the gate" on his side to either contest for the ball and/or try to unseat the "sealer" (second offensive rucker)?      
Claude Hughes
Chapel Hill Highlanders
Hi Claude

"Close around the ball on the ground" means the ball has to be in between them in some way.  It's close around, rather than close to (as in near to). Generally we would expect the ruckers to be over the ball as shown in the diagram in the law book.

If an attacking player went beyond the ball before the ruck formed then he would potentially be in an offside position (ahead of the player from his team who last played the ball) and we would expect him to move away and not obstruct.  This is often referred to as "taking space".
If the ruck is formed we have offside lines and if the ruck is then driven off or beyond the ball, then the ruck is over.  We are back to open play and anyone can step in and play the ball, or potentially form a new ruck.

Thanks for the questions
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

In goal area rules (Laws).

I was wondering if you could help me with some clarification regarding the in goal area.
In the following video at 2:10 Northampton kick the ball into Newcastle's in goal area when Andy Goode then walks the ball out.
Andy Goode's funny interactions with Wayne Barnes
As I believe the rules outline, and believe what happened, is that this results in a 22 drop out? As Northampton kicked the ball into the in goal area, it doesn't matter Newcastle took it out of play. Firstly could you clarify if this is indeed correct?
Leading on from this:
If the ball were kicked/carried into the in goal area by the attacking team, and a defending player kicks it out over the dead ball line, does this result in a 22?
If the ball were kicked/carried into the in goal area by the attacking team, and a defending player drops it backwards accidentally over the dead ball line, does this result in a 22?
Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond!
HI Ali

If the ball goes into in-goal and is then made dead by any means, you are indeed correct in your assertion that it is who puts the ball into in-goal that is important, not who makes it dead.

If the attackers put the ball into in-goal and it is made dead, result 22m drop out.
If the defenders put the ball into in-goal and it is made dead, result attacking 5m scrum.

Running, walking or kicking the ball over the dead ball line or touch-in-goal are all legitimate ways of making the ball dead.

On your last point, what you cannot do is "intentionally" knock, place, push or throw the ball dead.  The word intentionally is important, but it is up to the referee to decide if a ball was made dead in this way intentionally or accidentally.  If this is done to prevent a probable try, then a Penalty Try would result.

So the answer to all your questions is Yes, as described a 22 would result in all cases.

The Rugby Ref

Friday, 25 November 2016

Long Throw In Question

I'd like to ask a question concerning Law 19.15, concerning a long Throw In.
The law states that if the player throwing in throws the ball beyond the 15m line, a player of the same team may run forward to take the ball as soon as the ball leaves the hands of the player throwing in. If that player does so, opponents may also run forward.
In the context of this law, does the scrum half (or receiver) of the team throwing in, constitute “a player of the same team who may run forward to take the ball…….” and therefore trigger the defending team player encroaching within 10m of the line of touch, or does it have to be a player of the attacking team who stands 10m from the line of touch?
Thanks for your help.david
Hi David

Law 19.5 concerns players who are NOT part of the lineout. So if an attacking player who is "not part of the lineout" runs forward from the 10m offside line, then an opponent who is also "not part of the lineout" may run forward from his 10m offside line.  Note however that if the ball fails to travel over the 15m line then the attacking player who ran forward first is offside and must be penalised.

Now to the part of your question concerning the scrum half.  Since Law 19.5 only applies to player who are "not part of the lineout" the simple answer is no.  However for the full story we have to look to a different law, Law 19.14 - Offside When Taking Part In The Lineout.
19.14(f) Long throw-in. If the player who is throwing in throws the ball beyond the 15-metre line, a player taking part in the lineout may run infield beyond the 15-metre line as soon as the ball leaves the hands of the player throwing in.
If this happens, an opponent may also run infield. If a player runs infield to take a long throw in, and the ball is not thrown beyond the 15-metre line, this player is offside and must be penalised.Sanction: Penalty kick on the 15-metre line
 A lineout player may run infield in the same way as none participating players may run forward. But they are two separate laws and cannot be merged together.  So if the attacking scrum half (or any other player in the lineout) runs infield in anticipation of a long throw, then the opposing scrum half (or any other of his lineout players) may also run infield. But it doesn't allow a none participating player to run forward.

To answer your specific question therefore; an attacking lineout player running 'infield' does not allow a defender to run 'forward'.  Likewise and attacking none lineout player running 'forward' does not trigger an opponent to run 'infield'.  The two actions (running infield or forward) are separate.

One final word though.  Once the ball has crossed the 15m line the lineout is over so anyone can move anywhere.

This was a good question that demonstrates that individual laws cannot be read in isolation.

The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Question on the Laws, jumping over a player

Hi there,
last weekend i refereed my first 15s game and the following occured. A ballcarrier got tackled in the defending teams 22. Tackler and tackled player went to ground, however the tackled player managed to pass from the ground to his supporting player while the tackler was kneeling on all fours (hands and knees).
I was happy with all that. However the support player was running such a line that he couldn´t stop and jumped over the kneeling defender. No contact was made between the two. I deemed this dangerous play and gave a penalty to the defending team. Was i right?
Greetings Hilmar
Hi Hilmar

Jumping over a player is not specifically against the Laws of the Game, but dangerous play is.

If a ball carrier jumped over a prone player lying on the ground, play on.

If a ball carrier attempts to hurdle a would be tackler who is crouching, that would be dangerous as his boots would be in very close proximity to the tacklers head, Penalty.

Your situation sounds somewhere in between, so was it dangerous?  That would be a decision for the referee on the day, sometimes events have to be seen and judged at the time.  If you thought it was dangerous, then it was, and you were correct to give a penalty.

Good question
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


Dear Ref,
Ball carrier is tackled, and goes to the ground and presents, one of his players joins to ruck and is met by the first defender who pulls him towards him, over and to the floor. I'm happy that it would be a penalty to the attacking team but I'm not sure the particular law
Stephen Guest
Hi Stephen

Technically that 'could' be collapsing the ruck, but that law is a safety issue where a large ruck is collapsed, which is dangerous for any players on the floor beneath it.  This law is very rarely used and certainly not in the circumstances you describe.

Personally, The Rugby Ref would do nothing and wait to see what develops. In reality the player who was pulled through would probably roll away and rejoin from his own side, someone else would take his place and the ruck would reform, play would continue.

Remember Stephen, we don't want to blow the whistle if we don't have to.  Let's try to keep the game flowing.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 14 November 2016

Sealing in the Ruck

Would value your judgment on this one!!
A player is tackled and goes down, presents the ball and two team mates come in to form a ruck. They both latch on to his shirt with their hands while he is on the ground and the ruck forms behind them. They seem to use the fallen player as a barrier to prevent the opposition from accessing the ball on the ground.
Would you ping the grounded player  for not rolling away?  Or the two shirt-holders for going in too low? Or for being off their feet because their hands are on the grounded player?
This seems common practice but to me it is iffy.
Would appreciate views on this .
Thank you

Hi Peter

If the team mates are leaning on the player on the ground, then they are off their feet.  If you knocked their arms away would they fall over?  If so they are off their feet.  Potential penalty.

The act of grabbing the grounded players shirt is in itself not a problem, but if the opposition try to ruck them off the ball and they use this grounded player as an anchor, then that is a potential penalty.  If they drag the grounded player back with them, and the ball goes with him that is a potential penalty.

You can almost take your pick of reasons for giving the penalty.  Sealing off by the team mates, not rolling away by the ball carrier, or holding on by the ball carrier if he takes the ball with him as he is dragged back.

Thanks for a good question.
The Rugby Ref