As a new referee I am trying to piece together the Laws that apply when a team defending a lineout elect not to form and contest a maul.
So, a team (blue) throw in and win the ball at the lineout. Let's say three blue players bind to the blue player who caught the ball. No red players have made contact with anyone during the lineout and nobody from the red team binds to the ball carrier, so no maul has formed.
Blue now start to move towards the red goal line. Law 19.9 says that no matter how far blue progress the lineout is not over, since there is no ruck or maul to cross the line of touch. Is there another Law that I am missing at this point?
What I have seen happen next is for a red player to then go around to the back of the blue players and attempt to steal the ball. Isn't the offside line through the ball at this point? Why isn't the red player offside under Law 19.14 (c)?
I'm confused and just hoping this doesn't happen in a game I am refereeing until I manage to get my head around it.
The IRB (now World Rugby) issued a clarification in 2014 which explained how this should be refereed.
IRB clarification for teams choosing not to engage at the lineout
• if the defenders in the line out choose to not engage the line out drive by leaving the line out as a group, PK to attacking team;
• if the defenders in the line out choose to not engage the line out drive by simply opening up a gap and creating space and not leaving the line out, the following process would be followed:
- attackers would need to keep the ball with the front player, if they were to drive down-field (therefore play on, general play - defenders could either engage to form a maul, or tackle the ball carrier only);
- if they had immediately passed it back to the player at the rear of the group, the referee would tell them to use it which they must do immediately...
- if they drove forward with the ball at the back (did not release the ball), the referee would award a scrum for accidental offside rather than PK for obstruction.So in your scenario, as soon as you see that Blue are forming a 'would be' maul, and that Red are not engaging, you need to see where the ball is.
If it is with the front player, it is legal to move forward and Red must either tackle the ball carrier (below the waist), or bind to him (above the waist, full arm bind) to form a maul. As no maul forms initially the lineout is over when the ball leaves the lineout.
If the ball is at the back of the 'would be' maul, then you need to shout "use it". If Blue play the ball, play on and keep the game flowing. If they fail to do so, then it is a scrum to Red for accidental offside.
Run this scenario through your head a few times, so that when it happens it will look familiar and you will know what to do.
The Rugby Ref