I'm not trying to find fault with the ref here, but I am wondering about players picking up the ball in the ruck and lunging forward.
If you are in the ruck, bound on to other players, then you are not allowed to use your hands. The common arrangement is for the half-back to stand behind the ruck, reach in, and get the ball. The half is not in the ruck, and is on his feet. Furthermore, he is standing behind the offside line (the last man in the ruck).
But sometimes someone in the ruck picks up the ball and goes forward. To me it is the last man, and when he releases his bind, the offside line moves ahead of him, and so he is entitled to reach down and pick up the ball.
Do I have this correct? Because I was looking at Ireland-Wales 50:31 of the 2nd half, and to me, the Welsh #5 is not the last man in the ruck, but he picks up and goes forward. Am I missing something?
You are absolutely correct, once a ruck has formed, players are not allowed to use their hands. The scrum half is given special dispensation to put his hands in, to facilitate a better game of rugby. But only once the contest for the ball is over.
As we have already mentioned, the rugby you see on the television, is not the same as the rugby you see down your local club; for a variety of reasons.
If a player at the back of a ruck reaches down to pick and drive, this may not be strictly legal, but if the ball is already won and the contest is over, then the referee may let it go in the interest of keeping the game flowing. Remember we don't want to blow the whistle unless we have to. You have to ask yourself "is it a clear and obvious offence that prevented a fair contest for the ball?" If not, play on.