Wednesday, 28 September 2011

More Questions on the Ruck

Rugby Ref,

Thanks for the recent answers, particularly how materiality applies. Now for more on the ruck.

Watching Italy v US yesterday I noted several instances in breakdowns that I need some help interpreting.

Several times, by both teams, I would see a supporting player come into the breakdown and do what I will call a bridge over the ball (there is likely a common term for this?). By a bridge I mean the player was on hands and feet, arched over the ball. The player was clearly supporting some body weight on the hands. Now I thought that such a player had to stay on his feet, but neither the referee nor the opposing team seemed to pay any notice.

Thinking about these times a little more, I believe I would say that they were uncontested - there was no opposing player for the bridging player to bind on or push against.

Does the fact that these breakdowns are unopposed mean that "on the feet" does not apply? Or is this a case of materiality? If an opposing player decided to come forward and contest for the ball, would the bridging player be guilty of shielding the ball and preventing it from being played?

And another question about "on your feet". Many times I see a player enter a breakdown and at first he is on his feet. Then either an opposing player from the front tries to release, or push forward, and the player comes off his feet, or a teammate joins the ruck and knocks him down. How is this interpreted?

First of all Steve, please don't confuse TV Show Biz Rugby, with the Grassroots Rugby we all play on a Saturday.

"Bridging" or "Sealing Off" are illegal.  But as you rightly appreciate, they may not be material if; the ball is already won, or the opposition are not contesting the ruck.  It all comes down to The Rugby Ref's mantra of "only blow the clear and obvious".  Remember everyone is there to play and watch rugby, not to listen to your whistle.  So don't blow it unless you have to.  What The Rugby Ref will do however is have a word at downtime to tell the players to stay on their feet.

Regarding your last question, it's the same answer really.  If a player goes off his feet, it "may" not be his fault, but if it kills the ball he is going to get pinged, regardless of whether he jumped, or whether he was pushed!  But if the ball is still available, tell him to roll away and play on.

Sometimes when a player is penalised for "not rolling away", when he is on the wrong side of a tackle or ruck, he will complain that he was trapped and unable to move.  The Rugby  Ref's answer to that is, "then don't allow yourself to get into that position in the first place"!

Steve, what many of your questions highlight, is that the Laws of the Game are often a framework,  which the good referee uses to "manage" a game and get everyone playing rugby.  It's a poor referee that sees the Laws as Black and White, to be applied whenever they are broken.  This latter approach leads to a poor game of rugby and some frustrated players. 

Don't ignore the law; manage it!

Materiality.........what's that then?

Hi RugbyRef,

I am all questions tonight!

Some violations in some sports are automatic, no matter how minor they might be.

For example, in hockey, the tiniest amount of offside at the blue line is called, no matter if it might affect play or not.

I suspect that even the slightest indication of a knock-on or a forward pass, if detected, is blown down (or advantage) in rugby.

In contrast, we have the 45 possible calls at a scrum, as you have mentioned before, some of which might be called at every scrum.

Can you advise which technical calls in rugby are "always" called (or advantage played) as opposed to the calls which may be "managed" as trifling or not affecting the play of the game?


Hello again Steve, interesting question.

You are correct in thinking that some offences are always blown, or advantage applied.  As you have surmised the knock-on an the forward pass are always deemed to be material.

It is that word material, or more precisely "materiality", that governs what a referee may choose not to enforce.  For instance if a kick-off  is taken to the left, but the winger on the far right is in front of the kicker by half a yard, then he is having no material effect on the game and The Rugby Ref may ignore it for now.  The Rugby Ref will however, have a word with the winger at the first opportunity and let him know that his offside was noticed.

The Rugby Ref will never let players think he has either not seen, or ignored an offence.  A quick call of "seen it, play on", will give the players confidence that the referee is doing his (or her) job.

In normal weekend rugby (where physio's and doctors don't run onto the pitch to deal with every injury), anything safety related will be blown straight away.

Keep the questions coming Steve.

Preventing the Quick Throw

Hi RugbyRef,

Team A kicks the ball to touch. Team B wants to take a quick lineout. Team B is allowed to throw the ball in at the line of touch or anywhere between the LoT and their own goal line. And they can throw it in parallel to the LoT or at an angle back towards their goal line.

Is Team A, discouraging or defending against the quick lineout, allowed to run past the line of touch towards Team Bs goal line?

Is Team A allowed to be within the 5 meters and prevent or make difficult the quick lineout with raised arms, etc?


First of all Steve, let's get some terminology sorted.  The Rugby Ref thinks what you are refering to is a "quick throw-in", this is a throw-in taken, without waiting for a lineout to form.

Are Team A allowed to run past the Line of Touch (LOT) towards Team B's goal line?  Yes they are.

Are they allowed to discourage a quick throw by standing in the 5m channel?  No they are not.

They can stand outside the 5m line and wave their arms to their hearts content, but they cannot stand closer than that.

Law 19.2 (h)
At a quick throw-in, a player must not prevent the ball being thrown in 5 metres.  This is a Free Kick offence.

However, if the referee deems that a quick throw was never really on, then materiality comes into effect and The Rugby Ref might just give a warning to the offending player.

Hands In The Ruck

Hi RugbyRef,

Watching Romania and England there was a play that is an example of something I don't understand how to interpret.

Romanian player is tackled. English player, not the tackler, immediately moves in, on his feet, and begins to reach for the ball. Two supporting Romanian players, both on their feet, make contact with the English almost immediately and begin a ruck (I presume). The two English tacklers do a fair job of trying to roll away.

I believe it is fair to say that the Romanian player did not release as quick as he might have, and that was the call, "not releasing".

What I am wondering about though, is the English player. I know the first player in has a right to the ball. In this case, the supporting players were right there. Once they make contact, does that mean a ruck is formed and the English player can no longer play the ball with his hands?

So with respect to the timing ... even though the English player had only a fraction of a second to attempt the ball before the Romanians arrived, is that sufficient to award the penalty for not releasing the ball? Or can the English player continue to play the ball for a while after the

Romanians arrive before the ruck is considered to be formed, and so therefore any holding is truly not releasing?

Steve Delaney

Hello again Steve.  The Rugby Ref is sorry to be slow in replying to this and your other questions, but he has been busy all week refereeing and watching the RWC himself.

The answer to this questions is fairly simple.  A player who arrives and has his hands on the ball "before" a ruck forms, may then keep his hands on the ball and continue to contest for the ball, even if a ruck forms around or on him.  However if he loses his grasp on the ball once the ruck forms, then he cannot go in again for a second chance.

This exception to the "no hands in the ruck" law is covered here:

Law 16.4 (b)
Players must not handle the ball in a ruck except after a tackle if they are on their feet and have their hands on the ball before the ruck is formed.

Thanks Steve for a good question.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

RWC question from Steve Delaney in Newfoundland


I was watching Canada v France at the World Cup. At 38:50 of the first half Canada's #7 is called for not releasing the tackled player. Here's what I saw.

The French player is running forward and Canadas #7 tackles straight on.  The French player goes to the ground immediately. #7 remains on his feet, bent forward at his waist. He raises both arms out from his shoulders away from his body and the tackled player. He then reaches down towards the ball.  A supporting French player rushes in, and as the tackled player places the ball, it is hit by the supporting player's leg and bounces out to the side, where it is scooped up by a passing Canadian player. All this
happens in a second. The whistle blows.

To me, the #7 clearly released the tackled player and with purpose showed "space" between himself and the man on the ground, and he never left his feet. The referee is heard to say "Tackler Assist". But there was no other Canadian player involved or even close to the tackle. The commentators definitely heard the same thing, because they explained the rule that the second tackler must also release (although they failed to notice there was no second tackler).

Am I missing something in the interpretation? Maybe the referee meant to say simply "not released" instead of what he did say, although he seems to repeat it several times. But even then, I can't see a penalty. Or is this just a blown call?

Steve Delaney

Hi Steve, thanks for your question.  The Rugby Ref didn't see the incident in question, but lets examine your description.

The French player is running forward and Canadas #7 tackles straight on. The French player goes to the ground immediately. #7 remains on his feet,

What we have here is a tackle, without a tackler.  The French player (ball carrier) was held and brought to ground, so he was tackled.  Because the #7 didn't himself go to ground with the ball carrier, he is not a tackler, he is what is commonly known as a "tackle assist".  The difference between the two is that a tackler (having got to his feet and released the ball carrier) may play the ball from any angle.  A tackle assist must come through the gate, from his own side of the tackle.

The Rugby Ref can only surmise that this is why the referee called "tackler assist" and penalised the Canadian player.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Rugby Ref's post match meal No 5

Schools rugby this weekend for The Rugby Ref, with a very fast, although ultimately one sided "Under 16" match at a private school.  Back to the masters common room afterwards for a very nice curry and a beer.  Lots of meat, lots of flavour, seconds were very welcome.

The Rugby Ref gives this simple, but delicious meal a 7 out of 10.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Rugby Ref's post match meal No 4

The Rugby Ref had a last minute appointment Sunday.  The call came in Sunday morning for a referee that afternoon, and as Mrs Rugby Ref was at work, The Rugby Ref volunteered.  Ladies match, 1430 kick off.

The home ladies were very apologetic that there wasn't a hot meal.  Apparently the kitchen isn't available on a Sunday.  However one of the ladies who was injured had spent the previous day preparing pork batches, complete with apple sauce and mini scotch egg appetisers.  Somehow The Rugby Ref can't imagine the men's first team doing this!

So The Rugby Ref has to give a score.  Unfortunately The Rugby Ref can only score the meal itself and not the team spirit that went into  making it.  With that in mind The Rugby Ref scores the pork batch 3 out of 10.  Had it been a hot pork batch it would have been a lot higher.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Rugby Ref's post match meal No 3

Well this weeks meal looked very appetising, but the taste didn't quite live up to the expectation. 

We had shepherds; or was it cottage; pie.  (The Rugby Ref never asked if it was beef or lamb.)  Along with a big chunk of lovely fresh bread.  The potato on the top, with a bit of cheese, was lovely.  Inside it was mince and vegetables, mostly peas and carrots.  It looked home made and the portions were very generous.

There was just something about the mince.  The chili in meal No1 was the same.  The mince was tasteless, which you usually find with very cheap mince.  Actually it wasn't totally tasteless; it tasted a bit like cardboard.

Now The Rugby Ref isn't going to castigate clubs for buying cheap mince.  They are working on a shoestring budget and need to cut corners where they can.  But it does affect the score The Rugby Ref will give them.

The Rugby Ref is going to score this meal one higher than the chili in meal No 1, because the vegetables were very nice and the potato and cheese topping was lovely, so The Rugby Ref scores this meal 6 out of 10.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Rugby Ref's post match meal No 2

After seeing this week's meal, The Rugby Ref has revised the score for last week's meal, from a 4 to a 5.  Otherwise The Rugby Ref could end up with nowhere to go on the scores.

This weeks meal was a small burnt sausage in an over-sized bun with some onions.  This was accompanied by some "crispy" french fries.  The Rugby Ref had to smother them in ketchup to soften them up.  The whole thing came on a paper plate.  In it's defence the meal was hot and filling, and was partnered with a very nice pint of Guinness.

Using last weeks chili (5) as a benchmark, The Rugby Ref scores this weeks fare 4 out of 10.

While both meals so far have scored low, they were both gratefully received after a good hard game of rugby.  The Rugby Ref is however hoping for some higher scores as the season progresses.