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?
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