Thursday, 22 March 2018

Tackling a player in the air

Players being tackled whilst in the air has become one of the big taboos in the modern game, and rightly so in certain circumstances. My question is on a situation out of the norm.
Anyone who watched the England v Wales match this season will have applauded Sam Underhill's superb try saving tackle on Scott Williams. If you didn't see it, Williams dived early and tried to slide for the try line in the corner, and Underhill grabbed him and rolled him into touch. What if Williams had dived for the corner but had stayed up in the air? If Underhill had tackled him then and got him into touch, would it have been a penalty try and a yellow card?

Hi John

You are correct that the law says you cannot tackle a player in the air.  Specifically it says:
Law 9
17. A player must not tackle, charge, pull, push or grasp an opponent whose feet are off the ground.
However we have to careful taking the law literally.  When a player is running there are times when both feet are off the floor, but that does not mean you cannot tackle a running player, so a little common sense has to come into play.

In your example, providing the tackle wasn't dangerous it would be allowed, otherwise the game would be unplayable.  Dangerous might involve no arms in the tackle.

I think we all know what the law means?  You cannot tackle a player who is jumping for a ball, or who has been lifted for the ball and has not returned to the ground.  That player is in a vulnerable position and safety dictates we must protect them.

Good question though John.
The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 8 March 2018

New ruck law

Hello, according to the new ruck law... after a tackle, if the tackler gets on their feet (of course from his side too) and then stands over the ball... is a ruck formed ?... or the ruck will be formed always by a 3rd arriving player ?
Diego S. Cicero
Hi Diego

First of all this New Ruck Law is only a trial at the moment, however the simple answer to your question is 'Yes" a ruck is formed.

Here is the wording from the World Rugby Global Law Trials (GLTs)
Law 16: Amended Ruck Law
A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside line is created. A player on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives no hands can be used.
Guidance Notes:The “one man” ruck only applies after a tackle and that normal ruck law applies to all other situations e.g. player voluntarily going to ground, ball on ground in open play etc. The offside line is formed when a player from either team arrive over the ball.
 So for this new one player ruck first we have to have a tackle, it doesn't apply to a single player going to ground to gather a loose ball for example.  If this player is the tackler and he legally enters (or re-enters) the tackle zone to stand over the ball then a one man ruck is formed.  It might help to think of it as a tackle zone with offside lines.  (Remember that this was brought in to counteract the negative play from Italy of standing around the tackle area to stifle play.)  This player may play the ball providing he does so immediately.  As soon as an opposition player arrives no hands can be used.

It doesn't necessarily look like a conventional ruck (which is why it might help to think of it as a tackle with offside lines), but the ruck laws apply.

Great question Diego
The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Player leaving the field of play.

Gloucester first try against Newcastle in the Premiership on Saturday 3 March 2018
The Gloucester player received a pass near the touch line run’s forward then grubber kick’s the ball forward he then goes off the pitch but carries on running about a metre off the pitch for about 10 metre’s going pass Newcastle player’s he then come’s back on the pitch collect’s his kick and score’s a try.
Can you pleas tell me why he was allowed to do this as he had gone off the pitch?
Michael Foxcroft

Hi Michael

The Rugby Ref saw this incident, it was a great bit of individual skill.  There is no law that says a player cannot temporarily leave the field of play, or re-enter it, so this action was perfectly legal.  The Rugby Ref has listed a couple of laws to demonstrate this:

Law 21 (In-goal) specifically allows a player outside the field of play to take part in the game.  That player can even score a try while off the field of play.
Law 21 10. If a player is in touch or touch-in-goal, they can make a touch down or score a try by grounding the ball in in-goal provided they are not holding the ball.
Law 18 (Touch, Quick Throw and Lineout) also states how a player in touch can play the ball without making it dead, so play continues.
Law 182. The ball is not in touch or touch-in-goal if:b. A player jumps, from within or outside the playing area, and catches the ball, and then lands in the playing area, regardless of whether the ball reached the plane oftouch.c. A player, who is in touch, kicks or knocks the ball, but does not hold it, provided ithas not reached the plane of touch.
Thanks for the question.
The Rugby Ref

Thursday, 22 February 2018

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Monday, 5 February 2018

Scrumhalf leaves the scrum?

Hi ref,
I have some questions about scrum half leaving the scrum.
1. Can the scrum half of team winning the ball move far away before the end of the scrum? (If he keeps behind the hindmost foot of the scrum)
2. For U19, we know the ball cannot be held under the no.8. If question 1 is positive, should I award a FK to defensive team since the leaving scrum half normally follows the ball being held under the no.8?
3. If 1 is positive, can defensive scrum half follow the offensive half once the offensive one move away toward the left side?
Hi there, thanks for the questions. In general the offside line for scrum halves is the ball; or they retire to the back foot on their side of the scrum and may then traverse across the pitch (but not in front of the back foot); or they retire back to at least 5m behind the back foot and remain there until the scrum is over.

To answer your questions specifically:
1. Yes he can.
2. The Rugby Ref would advise shouting "use it" and encouraging the No 8 to pick up the ball and play it. A Free Kick in this instance should be a last resort.  If this were to happen and they didn't use it The Rugby Ref would advise the teams of their obligations at the next scrum.  Remember to look for ways "not" to blow the whistle.
3. Yes, both scrum halves can traverse the pitch as long as they stay behind their respective back foot.

Law 19 (2018 numbering)
28. Prior to the start of play in the scrum, the scrum-half of the team not throwing in the ball stands:
a. On that team’s side of the middle line next to the opposing scrum-half, or
b. At least five metres behind the hindmost foot of their team’s last player in thescrum and remains there until the completion of the scrum.
29. Once play in the scrum begins, the scrum-half of the team in possession has at least one foot level with or behind the ball.
30. Once play in the scrum begins, the scrum-half of the team not in possession:
a. Takes up a position with both feet behind the ball and close to the scrum or
b. Permanently retires to a point on the offside line either at that team’s hindmostfoot, or
c. Permanently retires at least five metres behind the hindmost foot.

The Rugby Ref

Friday, 26 January 2018

Ruck confusions

I am seeing an increase in the amount of players from attacking sides joining a ruck, going over the ball and then putting their hands on the ground. This is to my mind sealing off and should always be pinged, as is the case with a defending player with hands on the ground past the ball. Also the joining of a ruck seems to be very biased against defending players while attacking players are given a lot more leeway in where they join from, how far past the ruck they clear out and often clearing without even touching a team mate let alone binding first. While I applaud running rugby, I feel the fairness of contest is being undermined in the pursuit of a preconceived type of game.

You don't say what level of rugby you are watching, but I suspect this is TV rugby you are referring to, so The Rugby Ref has to start by saying that TV rugby is a different beast from grass roots rugby that most people play and watch on a Saturday afternoon.  Despite their being one law book for all, rugby at the top levels is refereed differently for a variety of reason.  The players are stronger and faster; the TV people who pay for this are looking for entertainment and thus put referees under pressure to keep the game flowing.  There is a whole separate debate to be had on this subject that is outside the scope of this blog.

So looking at grass roots rugby...players putting hands on the floor past the ball is indeed sealing off, or bridging, and will be penalised if it has a material effect on the breakdown.  If the attacking team is not competing at the breakdown then it may not be material, although the referee has to be careful that the sealing off may be the reason they are not competing.  This is covered in law as the player being off his feet and is frequently dealt with.  If the player goes from hands past the ball to scooping up the ball he will generally be penalised.

Are attackers given more leeway?  Positive rugby is to be applauded and rewarded, but only if it is legal.  Players must join from their own side and alongside a player from their team.  Depending on the size of the breakdown area this "could" give a lot of leeway.  If a player clears out past the ruck area they are then offside and must reload back to their own side, however if the ball is already on it's way out this may not be material.

You are correct that there must be a fair contest, materiality may come into play, but this doesn't mean offences can be ignored.  Generally the referee will talk to players at downtime and say that "this time it didn't affect play, but if you continue it may be penalised".  The laws of rugby are not meant to be black and white, they are grey and open to interpretation by the referee who will use his experience to keep the game flowing.  However this should not be done to the detriment of the contest. 

Referees are only human and sometimes they get it wrong, sometimes they interpret it differently, although they try to avoid that through training and discussion as Society level.  The core values of rugby reflect this and players will accept what the referee decides even if they disagree, this is what separates rugby from soccer and long may it continue.

The Rugby Ref

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Line Outs

In a couple of recent games my sons team have been thwarted in the lineout on their throw.
The opposition put 2 men up front and middle before the ball is thrown and keep them there until the ball is thrown, this obviously makes it very difficult for our thrower and we only have a front and back ball option. I think this is illegal but because he plays in France and my French is very limited I cannot  get my point across. I must add that this is an u18 league with a properly appointed referee.
Kind regards
Hi Norman

This sounds illegal to The Rugby Ref because players can't jump or be lifted until after the ball has left the hands of the thrower.

Looking at the new 2018 Law Book:
Law 18
20. Players must not jump or be lifted or supported before the ball has left the hands of the player throwing in. Sanction: Free-kick.
So if the opposition are held in the air waiting for the ball to be thrown it is a Free Kick offence.  The Free Kick to be taken 15m in from the touchline.  This applies to both teams.  The Rugby Ref would expect the thrower not to throw while these players are in the air, but to wait for them to come back to ground first.

The Rugby Ref doubts very much if there is some local regulation in France to negate this law.

Thanks for the question
The Rugby Ref