Friday, 16 December 2016

When is it not a ruck?

I have played and/or coached rugby union in Scotland and the US since 1974. I am currently an assistant coach for a U19 men's team. 
The definition of a ruck includes "...close around the ball on the ground."  So how close is close? How far away is no longer "close?"
I often see a first offensive rucker fly in "through the gate" going 1 or 2 or more meters past the tackled player (and ball) to "clear the threat" and then binding (actually tackling) a defensive player who may or may not be advancing "through the gate" on his side. Is that a ruck? When is it illegal, perhaps a violation like tackling a defensive player who does not have the ball or maybe obstruction?
Particularly in this setting where the first offensive rucker is 1, 2 or more meters away from the tackled player & ball, if the first defensive rucker simply escorts/allows or even binds and pulls that first offensive rucker backwards a few more meters down the pitch away from the tackled player & ball, when can a second defensive rucker just step into the wide open space to "enter the gate" on his side to either contest for the ball and/or try to unseat the "sealer" (second offensive rucker)?      
Claude Hughes
Chapel Hill Highlanders
Hi Claude

"Close around the ball on the ground" means the ball has to be in between them in some way.  It's close around, rather than close to (as in near to). Generally we would expect the ruckers to be over the ball as shown in the diagram in the law book.

If an attacking player went beyond the ball before the ruck formed then he would potentially be in an offside position (ahead of the player from his team who last played the ball) and we would expect him to move away and not obstruct.  This is often referred to as "taking space".
If the ruck is formed we have offside lines and if the ruck is then driven off or beyond the ball, then the ruck is over.  We are back to open play and anyone can step in and play the ball, or potentially form a new ruck.

Thanks for the questions
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

In goal area rules (Laws).

I was wondering if you could help me with some clarification regarding the in goal area.
In the following video at 2:10 Northampton kick the ball into Newcastle's in goal area when Andy Goode then walks the ball out.
Andy Goode's funny interactions with Wayne Barnes
As I believe the rules outline, and believe what happened, is that this results in a 22 drop out? As Northampton kicked the ball into the in goal area, it doesn't matter Newcastle took it out of play. Firstly could you clarify if this is indeed correct?
Leading on from this:
If the ball were kicked/carried into the in goal area by the attacking team, and a defending player kicks it out over the dead ball line, does this result in a 22?
If the ball were kicked/carried into the in goal area by the attacking team, and a defending player drops it backwards accidentally over the dead ball line, does this result in a 22?
Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond!
HI Ali

If the ball goes into in-goal and is then made dead by any means, you are indeed correct in your assertion that it is who puts the ball into in-goal that is important, not who makes it dead.

If the attackers put the ball into in-goal and it is made dead, result 22m drop out.
If the defenders put the ball into in-goal and it is made dead, result attacking 5m scrum.

Running, walking or kicking the ball over the dead ball line or touch-in-goal are all legitimate ways of making the ball dead.

On your last point, what you cannot do is "intentionally" knock, place, push or throw the ball dead.  The word intentionally is important, but it is up to the referee to decide if a ball was made dead in this way intentionally or accidentally.  If this is done to prevent a probable try, then a Penalty Try would result.

So the answer to all your questions is Yes, as described a 22 would result in all cases.

The Rugby Ref

Friday, 25 November 2016

Long Throw In Question

I'd like to ask a question concerning Law 19.15, concerning a long Throw In.
The law states that if the player throwing in throws the ball beyond the 15m line, a player of the same team may run forward to take the ball as soon as the ball leaves the hands of the player throwing in. If that player does so, opponents may also run forward.
In the context of this law, does the scrum half (or receiver) of the team throwing in, constitute “a player of the same team who may run forward to take the ball…….” and therefore trigger the defending team player encroaching within 10m of the line of touch, or does it have to be a player of the attacking team who stands 10m from the line of touch?
Thanks for your help.david
Hi David

Law 19.5 concerns players who are NOT part of the lineout. So if an attacking player who is "not part of the lineout" runs forward from the 10m offside line, then an opponent who is also "not part of the lineout" may run forward from his 10m offside line.  Note however that if the ball fails to travel over the 15m line then the attacking player who ran forward first is offside and must be penalised.

Now to the part of your question concerning the scrum half.  Since Law 19.5 only applies to player who are "not part of the lineout" the simple answer is no.  However for the full story we have to look to a different law, Law 19.14 - Offside When Taking Part In The Lineout.
19.14(f) Long throw-in. If the player who is throwing in throws the ball beyond the 15-metre line, a player taking part in the lineout may run infield beyond the 15-metre line as soon as the ball leaves the hands of the player throwing in.
If this happens, an opponent may also run infield. If a player runs infield to take a long throw in, and the ball is not thrown beyond the 15-metre line, this player is offside and must be penalised.Sanction: Penalty kick on the 15-metre line
 A lineout player may run infield in the same way as none participating players may run forward. But they are two separate laws and cannot be merged together.  So if the attacking scrum half (or any other player in the lineout) runs infield in anticipation of a long throw, then the opposing scrum half (or any other of his lineout players) may also run infield. But it doesn't allow a none participating player to run forward.

To answer your specific question therefore; an attacking lineout player running 'infield' does not allow a defender to run 'forward'.  Likewise and attacking none lineout player running 'forward' does not trigger an opponent to run 'infield'.  The two actions (running infield or forward) are separate.

One final word though.  Once the ball has crossed the 15m line the lineout is over so anyone can move anywhere.

This was a good question that demonstrates that individual laws cannot be read in isolation.

The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Question on the Laws, jumping over a player

Hi there,
last weekend i refereed my first 15s game and the following occured. A ballcarrier got tackled in the defending teams 22. Tackler and tackled player went to ground, however the tackled player managed to pass from the ground to his supporting player while the tackler was kneeling on all fours (hands and knees).
I was happy with all that. However the support player was running such a line that he couldn´t stop and jumped over the kneeling defender. No contact was made between the two. I deemed this dangerous play and gave a penalty to the defending team. Was i right?
Greetings Hilmar
Hi Hilmar

Jumping over a player is not specifically against the Laws of the Game, but dangerous play is.

If a ball carrier jumped over a prone player lying on the ground, play on.

If a ball carrier attempts to hurdle a would be tackler who is crouching, that would be dangerous as his boots would be in very close proximity to the tacklers head, Penalty.

Your situation sounds somewhere in between, so was it dangerous?  That would be a decision for the referee on the day, sometimes events have to be seen and judged at the time.  If you thought it was dangerous, then it was, and you were correct to give a penalty.

Good question
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


Dear Ref,
Ball carrier is tackled, and goes to the ground and presents, one of his players joins to ruck and is met by the first defender who pulls him towards him, over and to the floor. I'm happy that it would be a penalty to the attacking team but I'm not sure the particular law
Stephen Guest
Hi Stephen

Technically that 'could' be collapsing the ruck, but that law is a safety issue where a large ruck is collapsed, which is dangerous for any players on the floor beneath it.  This law is very rarely used and certainly not in the circumstances you describe.

Personally, The Rugby Ref would do nothing and wait to see what develops. In reality the player who was pulled through would probably roll away and rejoin from his own side, someone else would take his place and the ruck would reform, play would continue.

Remember Stephen, we don't want to blow the whistle if we don't have to.  Let's try to keep the game flowing.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 14 November 2016

Sealing in the Ruck

Would value your judgment on this one!!
A player is tackled and goes down, presents the ball and two team mates come in to form a ruck. They both latch on to his shirt with their hands while he is on the ground and the ruck forms behind them. They seem to use the fallen player as a barrier to prevent the opposition from accessing the ball on the ground.
Would you ping the grounded player  for not rolling away?  Or the two shirt-holders for going in too low? Or for being off their feet because their hands are on the grounded player?
This seems common practice but to me it is iffy.
Would appreciate views on this .
Thank you

Hi Peter

If the team mates are leaning on the player on the ground, then they are off their feet.  If you knocked their arms away would they fall over?  If so they are off their feet.  Potential penalty.

The act of grabbing the grounded players shirt is in itself not a problem, but if the opposition try to ruck them off the ball and they use this grounded player as an anchor, then that is a potential penalty.  If they drag the grounded player back with them, and the ball goes with him that is a potential penalty.

You can almost take your pick of reasons for giving the penalty.  Sealing off by the team mates, not rolling away by the ball carrier, or holding on by the ball carrier if he takes the ball with him as he is dragged back.

Thanks for a good question.
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Taking a quick free kick for an early shove.

Afternoon, I hope you are well. 
Can a team given a free kick for an early shove at a scrum take the kick straight away or is there a requirement to have the packs disengaged before taking the free kick ?
Thank you 
Regards David Forrest

Hi David

Good question.  The team can take the Free Kick quickly, generally speaking referees are in favour of allowing a team to play at a high tempo providing it is done correctly and safely.

The place for the Free Kick is the centre of the scrum, obviously this place isn't accessible if the scrum is still formed, so moving backwards from the mark the nearest place to take the kick is at the base of the Number 8's feet.

A proviso against his would be if the scrum had collapsed for some reason, when the referee might want to make sure everyone got up safely before allowing the game to continue.
21.2 WHERE PENALTY AND FREE KICKS ARE TAKEN(a) The kicker must take the penalty or free kick at the mark or anywhere behind it on a linethrough the mark.....
It should also be noted that this action puts the teammates of the Free Kick taker who are still engaged in the scrum, in an offside position, and as such they cannot take part in the game until they have been put onside.

The same would apply for a Penalty Kick at a scrum.

The Rugby Ref

Hookers 'binding' in scrum

Hi rugby ref, 
I've been hooking 13 years. On occasion, an opposing hooker intentionally goes head to head during '"bind," blocking me from correct head position at the 'cup' of my opposing hooker and prop. Then at "set" the hooker ducks into the 'cup' of the shoulders.
The ref calls "set" once the front rows are ready. Are hookers head to head considered 'ready' for "set"?

Hi Kyle

The law states that front row players must interlock heads, ear to ear.  On the command "Crouch" and "Bind" front row players are expected to be in a position ready for "Set".
20.1 (f) Front rows coming together. First, the referee marks with a foot the place where thescrum is to be formed. Before the two front rows come together they must be standing notmore than an arm’s length apart. The ball is in the scrum half’s hands, ready to be thrown in.The front rows must crouch so that when they meet, each player’s head and shoulders areno lower than the hips. The front rows must interlock ear against ear so that no player’shead is next to the head of a team-mate.
The Rugby Ref would not consider hookers being forehead to forehead as being ready.  This is usually a tactic by one or the other hooker to intimidate the opposition, and as such it is a potential flashpoint.
The Rugby Ref would stand up a scrum forming in that way and explain that heads need to be "in the gap".  So the answer to your question is "No".

Thanks for the question
The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Place kick for touch

When Argentina played Australia, Sanchez tried a PK for goal, but the ball hit a post and rebounded into touch without another player touching it.  Wayne Barnes awarded the lineout to Australia in line with Clarification 2 of 2006 which laconically says:
"If the penalty kick is for goal, then it is a lineout defending team to throw in.Law 21.4(d)."
It also adds "If the penalty kick is for touch, therefore no place kick, then it is a lineout attacking team to throw in."
21.4 (d) is now 21.4 (e).  The kicker "must not place kick for touch"  If he does so, the sanction is an opposition scrum at the mark for the penalty.
If a "place kick FOR touch" implies intention, then in this case it was obviously accidental, and a PK into touch leaves the throw with the kicking team.
If a "place kick FOR touch" includes accidents, then the outcome should be a scrum.
How did the Designated Members reach their conclusion? 
Peter Shortell 
Hi Peter

Unfortunately I am not privy to the Designated Members decisions.  I do not even know who the Designated Members are?  So cannot help with how they came to this conclusion.

Like a policeman I do not write the laws, I just uphold them.  In the example, which was a kick for goal, Wayne Barnes got the decision correct.

Ours not to reason why......

The Rugby Ref

Friday, 16 September 2016

Another question about 19.8....

Hi .. You’ve addressed a query about 19.8.  I have another you might help with “A player must not take a quick throw-in after the lineout has formed” .. and quick throw ins are often prevented by a defending player (often a back) chasing the kick to form the lineout, but then retreats when the lineout participants arrive.  However 19.8(d)  says: “Players of either team must not leave the lineout once they have taken up a position in the lineout until the lineout has ended” Surely the chaser must remain in the lineout? Martin
Hi Martin

What we have to remember is that there are two types of throw in, a "Quick Throw In", and a "Lineout".   These are treated separately in the Laws.  What you describe is players forming a mini lineout to prevent a "Quick Thrown In, which cannot be taken once a lineout has formed.  This takes two players from each side.

Once the "Quick Throw In" has been voided, then we are looking for players arriving at the line of touch to form the "Lineout".

Technically you are correct in that they may have approached the line of touch, but in reality these players who race up to prevent the Quick Throw In are probably going to be fast wingers or backs.  They are a different set of players to the ones that then arrive for the full lineout.  The full lineout hasn't formed until the "proper" lineout players arrive.

It's an area where the law says one thing, but common sense says another.  As usual we have to look at why the law was written that way?  It was to prevent a set of players forming a lineout, then swapping some out to counter a change by the opposition, then maybe swapping again, delaying the lineout.

Remember, unlike other sports the Laws of Rugby Union are essentially a framework which the referee uses to facilitate a game of rugby.  There are many grey areas in the laws and very few black and white ones.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 5 September 2016

Another line out question

There is a 30 sec time for forming a scrum after the ref has made his mark. What about a line out?Cheers.Lawrence
Hi Lawrence

Law 19.8 Forming a Lineout states
19.8(d) When the ball is in touch, every player who approaches the line of touch is presumed to doso to form a lineout. Players who approach the line of touch must do so without delay.Players of either team must not leave the lineout once they have taken up a position in thelineout until the lineout has ended.Sanction: Free Kick on the 15-metre line
The key phrase is "Players who approach the line of touch must do so without delay."
How long is without delay?  The law is silent on that, so it is up to the referee's discretion.  The Rugby Ref would suggest that if everyone is standing around waiting for one team, then the referee will tell them to hurry up, if he has to tell them more than once or twice, then he will be thinking about a Free Kick for delaying the lineout.  There is no hard and fast answer.

The Rugby Ref

Under 15 law at lineout

Having just refereed an Under 15 game today, with the new lineout regulations for U15s, there are a few questions left!
If the lineout is not straight, do normal rules apply, and non-throwing team have choice of lineout or scrum?
At what point does the lineout become 'contested' again?
If a team opts not to lift, presumably the lineout still has to be uncontested?
If the jumper is missed, is the lineout still uncontested?  So, with an overthrow to a jumper at 2, can team not throwing in then play the ball?
Should the referee give a signal/call when the lineout is now contested?  Presumably that is different to the line out being over (so catcher catches the ball, but is in the air, he is then lowered to the ground - the lineout is not over, but the opposition can now contest the ball - but this needs calling, I presume)
Many thanks for any help!
Chris Townsend

Hi Chris

The Rugby Ref has checked with a couple of Community Rugby foundations on this question.  The consensus was that the uncontested part of the lineout refers to the ball in the air.  So the ball has to be thrown straight, the lifters and jumpers can practise lifting along with catching the ball uncontested.  Once the ball has left the lineout or the jumper has returned to ground with the ball, we are back to normal play.

So to answer your questions:
Not straight, as per normal laws.
Contested once the ball leaves or the jumper returns to the ground.
No lift is still uncontested.
If the jumper is missed, the throwing in side must still gain first possession of the ball, so no.
Whether the referee calls this is up to him, I would suggest not.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 18 July 2016

Law Amendments for the 2016 season in the RFU

Every four years, rugby's governing body undertakes a complete health-check of the game's playing trends across the Rugby World Cup cycle to ensure that the sport continues to develop at all levels around the world. This extensive process is undertaken with full union consultation and has player welfare, game simplification and fan experience at its core.

The main amendments are:

  • The replacement of a player injured following foul play does not count as one of the allotted number of replacements available to that team. Note this does not apply where interchanges are in use.
  • Advantage may be played following a scrum collapse if there is no risk to player safety
  • Play acting or “simulation” is specifically outlawed in the game in a move that formalises resistance to a practice that has been creeping into the game in recent years. Any player who dives or feigns injury in an effort to influence the match officials will be liable for sanction
  • Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made, unless the referee stops the clock for an injury or another stoppage
  • At a re-set scrum following a 90-degree wheel, the ball is thrown in by the team that previously threw it in rather than the team not in possession
  • The scrum-half of the team not in possession at a scrum may not move into the space between the flanker and number eight
  • When the ball has been at the number eight’s feet in a stationary scrum for 3-5 seconds, the referee will call “use it” and the attacking team must use the ball immediately
  • In addition, an important maul law application guideline, that has been in place in the southern hemisphere since 1 January, will be enforced in the north. Specifically, the ball must now be moved backwards hand-to-hand once the maul has formed, with a player not being allowed to physically move or slide to the back of the maul when he is in possession of the ball. Nor are long placements permitted, this is the passing of the ball over the heads of other maul players to a player further back. 
The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Ball Kicked From Own Ingoal

Could you please tell me what the ruling is if a defending team has a scrum feed 5m out from their own line and the ball is passed from the halfback back into the ingoal and kicked out on the full?
Hi Richard

So the defending team take the ball back into their own in-goal and then kick the ball straight out.

If they kick the ball out over the dead ball or touch-in-goal lines; the result is a 5m attacking scrum.

If they kicked the ball into touch; the result is the same as if the payer had kicked it out from the 22.
So lineout where the ball crossed the touchline, The opposition get the throw in.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 23 May 2016

Uncontested Maul at Lineout

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. 
Hi Jon

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

Is it ever ok for a parent/coach to enter the field of play?

Without going in to too much detail as the incidents are still being investigated is it ever ok for a parent/coach to enter the field of play? A potential safeguarding incident involving an official and player (the player concerned is under the age of 18) occured at which point a couple of coaches/players went on to the pitch to remove the players from the game. These coaches have now been charged with entering the field of play. Surely there are mitigating circumstances ie it wouldn't have happened if the initial incident hadn't happened? Both incidents are being investigated.
Many thanks
Hi Mike

As you haven't gone into any detail there are probably more questions than answers.

The laws of the game say that Coaches may only enter the field of play at half time.  Parents should never enter the field of play.  There are always exceptions and mitigating circumstances, but that doesn't make it right to do so.

If the coaches have been charged with entering the field of play there must be a reason. At the disciplinary hearing they will have the chance to put their case forward and explain their actions

There is not a lot more The Rugby Ref can, or would want to say without having all the facts.

The Rugby Ref

Friday, 6 May 2016

Double Movement

Hi can you clarify double movement laws please
I thought you were allowed to make a positive movement post tackle
Simon Carlton Rhodes

Hi Simon

The words "double movement" do not appear anywhere in the laws of the game.
Following a tackle the ball carrier has to  pass, place or release the ball "immediately". (Law 15.5).

There is one exception.  A ball carrier tackled close to the try line may reach out and ground the ball to score, but again this must be done "immediately".

Double movement is a phrase usually used to describe the actions of a ball carrier who scrabbles along on his hands and knees, or lurches forward using his knees and elbows, after having been tackled.  This kind of action is penalised as "not releasing the ball immediately after a tackle".

The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Punching the Ball in a Ruck

In the Sarries v Falcons game last Sunday. A Sarries forward started throwing punches in a ruck. The ref and TMO reviewed the incident and said the Sarries player was attempting to punch the ball being held by a falcons player on the ground. As no punches landed on the player, then this was ok and so no penalty to Falcons.
Surely this was dangerous play and reckless. Any views please?
The Rugby Ref has had a look at the incident and the referee's description it totally correct.  The Sarries player was attempting to dislodge the ball which was being held.  As he was only striking the ball no foul play has occurred, so no offence.  If anything the offence was against Newcastle for holding the ball in a ruck.  As it was, the penalty went against Newcastle anyway for side entry.

Of far more concern was the Newcastle players asking for a red card and challenging the referee.  We don't do that in Rugby!

The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Simultaneous Touchdown

In Exeter vs Wasps game this weekend why, when TMO adjudged simultaneous touchdown in goal after kick through by Steenson , did he give 5m scrum to Exeter. surely it's either a try or a 22 drop out to Wasps. As Exeter then scored seems a little harsh on defending side
Wayne Morris

Hi Wayne

This is a rare occurrence, but is specifically covered in law.
If there is doubt about which team first grounded the ball in the in-goal, play is re-started by a 5-metre scrum, in line with the place where the ball was grounded. The attacking team throws in the ball.
The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Reversed Penalty

I have been abroad for a couple of weeks and had to watch the recent England/Wales 6 nations match on my phone.
Having now watched the game full size I have a query regarding Dan Cole sin binning towards the end of the 2nd half.
Cole was justifiably binned in 71st minute for collapsing the maul and Wales were awarded a penalty.  In the remaining minutes, with England down to 14 men, Wales scored 14 points and the game was nearly turned upside down.
Immediately after the sin binning and before any further play, the Video match official intervened an informed the match Referee the possibility of foul play by the Welsh No 18, Thomas Francis on Dan Cole.  With the video evidence available, the Penalty was reversed in England's favour.
My question is that if the Thomas Francis incident was seen at the time it occurred, it would have resulted in an England penalty and the game continuing with England with 15 men. The Cole sin binning offence would never have happened.  When the Welsh penalty was reversed to an English penalty for an incident that happened immediately before the Cole sin binning, Why was the Cole sin binning not reversed?
RegardsColin Swindells
Hi Colin

The Welsh penalty offence was more serious than the Dan Cole one, hence the reversal of the penalty, but it doesn't mean that the Dan Cole offence never happened, or shouldn't have been penalised, that's why the yellow card was not rescinded.

The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Balls into Scrums - Straight or what?

Balls put into modern scrums never seem to go in straight towards the hookers - indeed they are usually skewed directly to the prop(s) of the scrum-half's own side.  Surely this is wrong ?   Perhaps the referees ignore this in the interests of getting play rersumed as soon as possible ?
Hookers used to be there to win the ball and to hook it back to their pack team mates:  ie the scrum is a "contest" to determine the winner of the ball.   Scrums seem pointless, except for territorial gain, if the scrum-half simply throws it in towards his own side ?  
Contrast this observation (during the Six Nations) with Line Outs, where the thrower-in is required to throw it centrally between the two sides, and will be penalised if he doesn't.
I  may not have played for 60 years, but surely I am right on this point about the scrums?  I shall be interested in your response !
John Lobley

You are preaching to the converted.  Every weekend at grass roots level scrum halves get penalised for not straight feeds, so why doesn't it happen at professional level?

Sorry, The Rugby Ref doesn't have the answer.  The Rugby Ref insists on a credible feed with some part of the ball on the centre line.

The Rugby Ref

Two questions regarding mauls.

Hi ask the ref,
I have two questions regarding mauls.
Law 17 states that a maul begins when ‘one or more of the ball carrier’s team mates bind on the ball carrier’ after being held up by an opponent, and reiterates ‘All the players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul’, which I interpret as that the rule that team mates must bind to the ball carrier remains throughout the duration of the maul, is that correct? If so, what I have seen is the ball carrier (often binding with little more than just a hand in violation of 17.2 c) binding onto a team mate, without a team mate bound to him. Surely in this scenario, the ball carrier is not/no longer part of the maul, his team mates are offside, potentially guilty of obstruction, and the opposing team are within their rights to tackle the baller carrier as the ball carrier is in fact in open play?
My second question is again with regard to ball carrier’s conduct in the maul. There has been the introduction of a clarification in the southern hemisphere, and to be introduced in June? in the northern hemisphere which is aimed at stopping the action of ‘swimming’ back through a maul, but what I have also seen from time to time, is the changing of bind by the ball carrier from one team mate to another. As per law 17.5 a maul ends when ‘the ball or a player with the ball leaves the maul’, does this not constitute leaving the maul? And as per my first question, potentially make his team mates guilty of obstruction also of being offside?
Thanks in advance,
Hi Adam

Your two questions are essentially asking the same thing, which is 'why do referees on the television allow the ball carrier at the back of a maul to bind with just one hand, or detach and rebind?'

You are correct in that the law requires all those involved in a maul to remain bound for the entire process, or leave the maul.  However we have to be practical here, the maul is a dynamic thing and it surges forward, stops, surges forward, stops, etc, as it moves along.  This means the ball carriers bind will lengthen and shorten as the maul moves.  Does it gain him an advantage? Not really.  So do we want to penalise him?  Only if he completely detaches and then rejoins the maul, at which point a quick word should allow us to play on or blow the whistle.

Keep the game flowing and blow only when necessary.

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 22 February 2016

Bath v Wasps

Interesting issue about choice of action on penalty
Wasp Capt. Smith tells ref he wants to kick to the corner from a penalty but ref says he must go for goal as a kicking T has arrived
This sounds wrong to me ....I was always taught on courses that it was the Capt call and his alone
Simon Carlton Rhodes

Simon, thanks for the question.

This is specifically covered under Law 21.4(c), the relevant wording is "The intention to kick is signalled by the arrival of the kicking tee or sand, or when the player makes a mark on the ground." So while the referee may ask the Captain what he wants to do, if someone brings on the kicking tee, then the choice has been taken away from him.

The referee was totally correct.
(c) No delay. If a kicker indicates to the referee the intention to kick a penalty kick at goal, the kick must be taken within one minute from the time the player indicates the intention to kick at goal. The intention to kick is signalled by the arrival of the kicking tee or sand, or when the player makes a mark on the ground. The player must complete the kick within one minute even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. If the one minute is exceeded, the kick is disallowed, a scrum is ordered at the place of the mark and the opponents throw in the ball. For any other type of kick, the kick must be taken without undue delay.
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Final penalty offside from charge down final penalty.

In today's Saracens versus Exeter match, the final penalty was awarded for an  Exeter player being offside when Steenson's kick was charged down as the player was in front of Steenson when he kicked the ball. But surely the charge down immediately puts that player onside?
Andy Robb
Hi Andy

I haven't seen that particular game yet, but from how you describe it.  The Exeter player was in front of the kicker as he kicked it, so he was already offside before the kick happened.  However you are right that the charge down means the opponent intentionally touched the ball, so the offside player is put onside.
11.3 BEING PUT ONSIDE BY OPPONENTSIn general play, there are three ways by which an offside player can be put onside by anaction of the opposing team. These three ways do not apply to a player who is offside under the 10-Metre Law.
(a) Runs 5 metres with ball. When an opponent carrying the ball runs 5 metres, the offside player is put onside.
(b) Kicks or passes. When an opponent kicks or passes the ball, the offside player is putonside.
(c) Intentionally touches ball. When an opponent intentionally touches the ball but does not catch it, the offside player is put onside.
What I cannot say, because I have not seen the incident, is did the offside player interfere with play before the charge down?  Thus making him liable to penalty?

The Rugby Ref

Monday, 1 February 2016

Ruck Question?

In a ruck is it legal for player on their feet to grasp a player on their own players on the ground, usually the tackled player, to prevent themselves from being driven backwards.
The laws indicate that players in a ruck should bind with a full arm, also players on the floor are deemed out of the game.
Horace Letchford
Hi Horace

If a player from the ball carriers team latches onto him as described we don't have a ruck, we just have a tackle situation.

A player with his hands on a player on the floor is not off his feet, unless his weight is all on his arms rather than his feet.  The rule of thumb is that if his arms are knocked away, would he fall over?  If he would, then he is deemed off his feet.  Also if he is kneeling on the player on the floor, he is also off his feet, because again, his weight is not all on his feet.

If a ruck has formed then you are right, that a player needs to bind fully to be part of the ruck, but what you describe usually happens before the ruck has formed.  An opposition player then binds to him and drives him off the ball.  Sometimes as described he drags the ball carrier with him.  If the ball carrier holds onto the ball during this scenario, then he is liable to penalty for holding on.

A ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are ontheir feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play hasended.
The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Hi Ref
My wife bought these boots for our 11 year old son.  They look more like football boots to me.  Would they be allowed in rugby?  All the advice I've Googled has been contradictory.  The IRB guidance I found simply said that they mustn't be more than 21mm long.  Hope you can help.  The studs are plastic by the way.

Hi Dave

You are correct in that the IRB regulations on studs don't exactly cover these, but moulded studs can come in strange shapes and they are allowed.

The key thing is...are they dangerous?  If you run your hand over them are they sharp or abrasive?  If not you should be ok to wear them.

However, don't be surprised if the odd referee won't allow them.  It is up to each individual referee to decide if they think non-standard studs are dangerous or not.  As you say, they do look like football boots rather than rugby boots...but This Rugby Ref would allow them.

The Rugby Ref
I’m a coach at an American high school. I think if I could coach a 2 man lineout (one lifter, one jumper), it would be an unstoppable lineout, as I don’t think anyone else would be able to safely do that lift. I’m thinking about having a prop lift a scrum half using this method I have seen in cheerleading.
Is that a legal lift?
Many thanks,Joe
Hi Joe

Sorry, no, that is not a legal lift. The player is initially thrown into the air, not lifted or supported. They are then supported below the thighs in front.

19.10 OPTIONS AVAILABLE IN A LINEOUT(d) Lifting and supporting. Players may assist a team-mate in jumping for the ball by lifting and supporting that player providing that the lifting and/or supporting players do not support the jumping team-mate below the shorts from behind or below the thighs from the front.Sanction: Free Kick on the 15-metre line
The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Attacking knock on in in goal

Dear The Rugby Ref,
I have a question regarding an attacking player knocking on while in goal - apologies if it has been asked before.
In the following situation, what do you believe the outcome should be?
Red are attacking and kick the ball into the opposition in goal.A red player (who is onside) knocks on when attempting to ground the ball.A blue defender then makes the ball dead.
My feeling is this should be a drop out rather than a defending scrum since red put the ball over the goal line, advantage was played and the ball was made dead.
There is no exemption in law to playing advantage in this case (8.3(f) only applying after the ball has been made dead), a drop out would be a clear advantage (assume blue have a weak scrum for clarity) and law 12.1(c) does not apply since the knock on occurred in in goal. Furthermore, if red had knocked the ball backwards in in goal, a drop out would be the only option (so red not knocking on might be a better result for blue, which seems wrong) and if 8.3(f) did apply, it would obviate the need for 12.1(c).
It seems simple to me, but opinions seem to be divided and I can find no IRB clarification.
Many thanks,

Hi there

The result of a knock-on in in-goal is always a scrum.  This is covered in the following specific laws:

If an attacking player commits an infringement in in-goal, for which the sanction is a scrum, for example, a knock-on, play is restarted with a 5-metre scrum. The scrum is formed in line with the place of the infringement and the defending team throws in the ball.
I understand where you are coming from regarding advantage, but we wouldn't play advantage in this situation.

If you think about it, the best the defending team could hope to get is clean ball from the back of the scrum and a clearance kick.  Does this equate to a 22 drop out?  No it doesn't, a 22 drop out would give the defenders too much advantage (specifically 22m worth of  extra advantage).

In addition if advantage was being played and the ball was made dead, then advantage wasn't called over, and you can't carry on advantage after the ball is dead; so we go back for the original offence and the scrum.

Good question.
The Rugby Ref

Monday, 4 January 2016

Rugby Substitutes

Hello Ask the ref, 
I am taking up rugby for the first time and have never played before. What is substitution in rugby and is it a bad position to play for a player as they most likely won't be playing the match would they? I don't want to end up in the substitution position and if I do will I be ended up here forever or will I earn a position in the game? Because when I get good enough at rugby I would love to play.

Hi Eddy

This would be more a question for a coach than a referee?

Generally speaking a substitute will come onto the pitch to replace a player who has been replaced tactically (for someone with other skills or fresher legs), or to replace a player who has been injured.

Depending on the level of the game there could be anywhere from 0 to 8 substitutes.  In some lower level games there are what we call rolling substitutions, which means players can be replaced more than once.  In mid level games there can be a maximum number of changes, but players can still be replaced more than once.

These local regulations are all designed to make sure everyone gets a game of rugby and are specifically designed to take away the need for a substitute to "warm the bench" all game long.  If a player is made to sit out the whole game over and again, he may leave and not come back, so a prudent coach will give all his players time in the game, to make it enjoyable for all.

If you are new to the game I would expect you to start off as a substitute, but if you do well in training you should quickly get some game time.  The better you do, the more game time you will get, but I would hope that you get to play whatever your skill levels as rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes; and all skills.

Enjoy your rugby Eddy and good luck.

The Rugby Ref

Penalty in-goal & 5 meters from try line

For a penalty awarded to attacking team  in opponents  half ,5 meter line from try line  ,,attacking team are given mark at 5 meter line .This is fully understood & agree with
2 questions , if I mayThe reverse of penalty awarded  ( defending team awarded penalty ) .in same area ,,between 5 meter line & try line,The mark if a scrum was to be chosen is still  on 5 meter line.However if the penalty was given 3 meters from 5 meter line to try line..Are opponents to be 10 meters back from same spot ,,or are they to be 10 meters back from 5 meter line ,,even if kicker does not take kick from 5 meter line
The same scenario  ,,this time defending team awarded penalty in goal ,,Are the attacking team to be 10 meters back from 5 meter line ( effectively they are penalised back 15 meters )
Am I correct with above view
LastlyMark made in goal ,Can this kick be brought back into field of play ,,or does it have to be taken in goal ,,& if so ,,as the kickers terms are that of a free kick ,,does this also mean opponents  have to be back 10 meters ,,if so ,,where is mark that they go back 10 meters from ,,Or is it also as my understanding  of above ,,with relation to penalty kicks in goal
Hope above makes sense
Regards Chris 
Hi Chris

If I understand your questions correctly then these should be the answers?

If an attacking team gets a penalty between the 5m line and the goal line, the place of the penalty is on the 5m line, in line with the penalty.  The defenders' offside line is the goal line.

If a defending team get a penalty between the 5m line and the goal line, the place of the penalty is the place of the infringement.  The attackers would need to be 10m back from the mark, not from the 5m line.  If the defenders choose a scrum alternative, then it must be on the 5m line, in line with the place of the infringement.

If a penalty is awarded in in-goal, then the place for the mark is on the 5m line.  If it is a defending penalty, then the attackers need to be 10m back from the mark, so 10m back from the 5m line.

The above is all covered by the following law:

Unless a Law states otherwise, the mark for a penalty or free kick is at the place ofinfringement.
(a) The kicker must take the penalty or free kick at the mark or anywhere behind it on a line through the mark. If the place for a penalty or free kick is within 5 metres of the opponents’ goal line, the mark for the kick is 5 metres from the goal line, opposite the place of infringement.
(b) When a penalty or free kick is awarded in in-goal, the mark for the kick is in the field of play, 5 metres from the goal line, in line with the place of infringement.

Finally for a Mark made in in-goal, the place of the kick is on the 5m line and the opposition have to be 10m back from that point.

The kick is awarded at the place of the mark. If the mark is made in the in-goal, the kick is awarded 5 metres from the goal line in line with where the mark was made.
I hope that has answered all your questions?
The Rugby Ref

Drop Goal When Time Expired

I found your impressive website and thought I would ask a question I have been thinking on for a while: 
Should the game be restarted when a drop-goal is kicked after time has expired? No seems to be the answer in practice but reading law 5.7 I don't think that is an obvious interpretation. 5.7(e) says that 
"If time expires and the ball is not dead, or an awarded scrum or lineout has not been completed, the referee allows play to continue until the next time that the ball becomes dead. The ball becomes dead when the referee would have awarded a scrum, lineout, an option to the non-infringing team, drop out or after a conversion or successful penalty kick at goal. If a scrum has to be reset, the scrum has not been completed. If time expires and a mark, free kick or penalty kick is then awarded, the referee allows play to continue."
My problem is that a drop goal is not a conversion or a penalty kick and the referee would not award a scrum, lineout, option or drop-out. And the specific mention of one type of goal but not drop-goals suggests that drop goals were specifically excluded. 
Is there something in the laws that I am missing? 
Best regards

Hi Johan

If the ball becomes dead that is the end of the game, otherwise play on.  So in your scenario if the drop goal is short and lands in the field of play, then we just play on.  If the drop goal goes long, or is touched down in the in-goal area, then we finish the game because you quoted the law yourself:
 The ball becomes dead when the referee would have awarded a...drop out...
If the drop goal goes long or is touched down we would restart with a drop-out, so the ball has become dead at that point; game over.

The Rugby Ref

Two Tacklers?

If a player is tackled to the ground by 2 opponents do both tacklers have the ‘privilege’ of there not being an offside line? Can both players get to their feet, show they are clear of the player and then jackle from the opponents side? Or must one return to his own side and come through the gate? 
Many thanks in anticipation, Gary

Hi Gary

Anyone who is classed as a tackler can get to their feet and compete for the ball from any direction.
So yes, both tacklers (provided they are clearly defined as tacklers) can play for the ball from any direction as you suggest.

Opposition players who hold the ball carrier and bring that player to ground, andwho also go to ground, are known as tacklers.
Opposition players who hold the ball carrier and do not go to ground are nottacklers.
The Rugby Ref