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?
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.