• Law clarification requests

    This section is aimed at trying to get a better understanding of what is truly meant by the law book, which isn't always easy.

    We at RugbyRefs.com are committed to making the game consistent across all grades, and in this section you will find requests for clarification on laws we believe are not entirely clear.

    Some believe the laws of the game are a guide, but as referees, it's our only defence of what we have done on the pitch, and our only evidence for why. RugbyRefs.com believes that the law makers have been doing this for a long time, and whilst there are a few small contradictions still present, they have dramatically improved it over the last few years and know what they are trying to achieve.

    So, do the law makers really intend the game to be played as it is written? Or are we looking into some laws too deep? If the latter, how can we ever have the consistency we so desperately desire?

    As a privately owned website, RugbyRefs.com has no line of request to the IRB laws committee, and nor should we. We do however have more referees that are members than any other individual society or association in the world. So, here we are, hoping that someone with the ability to take it further will read our requests, believe that we have a point, and seek official clarification.
    Comments 58 Comments
    1. The Fat's Avatar
      The Fat -
      What about the try Sam Warburton scored for Wales (could have been against the Wallabies???) about 5m left of the posts where he ROLLED the ball the last few inches to score. I think Alain Rolland was the ref. If someone can remember the game, I'll search for a video
    1. Dickie E's Avatar
      Dickie E -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pharginell View Post
      What if the player is holding the ball one handed and that hand is gripping the forward end of the ball?
      This would now, surely become a "pull" under the interpretations posted here and receives no mention anywhere at all in the rules.
      Next time it happens in one of my games I'll let you know what I did.

      I was initially impressed with your well-reasoned and articulate posts then you fessed to being an AB supporter and the magic evaporated. So sad.
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      pharginell -- I have lost the thread, and can't work out any longer what is the gap you see in the Laws (not rules).
      The Cruden try looks good to me...
    1. Pharginell's Avatar
      Pharginell -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dickie E View Post
      Next time it happens in one of my games I'll let you know what I did.

      I was initially impressed with your well-reasoned and articulate posts then you fessed to being an AB supporter and the magic evaporated. So sad.

      Way to bigot there Dickie E. Total indifference mode has been activated.
    1. damo's Avatar
      damo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pharginell View Post
      Way to bigot there Dickie E. Total indifference mode has been activated.
      That is uncalled for.
    1. Pharginell's Avatar
      Pharginell -
      Quote Originally Posted by crossref View Post
      pharginell -- I have lost the thread, and can't work out any longer what is the gap you see in the Laws (not rules).
      The Cruden try looks good to me...
      I agree with you crossref, it looks good to me as well. There is a lazy and longwinded debate over instances like this amongst the ex rugby playing mob of reprobates that I associate with. A number (it's 2) promote the idea that the ball can not be moved to the line while in contact with ground but still in complete control by the attacking player. The rest, including myself, hold the position that if this action is not outlawed it is a valid action.

      The pro groups reasoning also involves not using 15.5 (d) as an influence as this specifically outlaws pushing the ball forward in the release. This implies a ball that is not held, as per every release, and therefore the only action that could move it would be a push and so, would be a knock on. 15.5 (g) seems to be the appropriate law as there is nothing that outlaws a ball held and in control being in contact with the ground as an immediate reach is made for the line.

      The ball being "pulled" to the line by a shovel handed gorilla scenario is, admittedly, a pretty rare possibility but is a reveal as to why 15.5 (d) is not the law (and therefore also not the word "push") to use to decide the validity of a controlled ball maintaining contact with the ground while reaching for the line in the act of scoring a try.

      When some proffered an opinion that a reach involves the ball not having contact with the ground during its forward movement I asked where this had come from as there seems to be nothing influencing that thought process in official World Rugby information sources.

      I suspect those that hold the "reach must be airborne" policy are repeating a locally developed artifact that has not actually been outlawed by World Rugby.
    1. OB..'s Avatar
      OB.. -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pharginell View Post
      The wording of laws is a valid technique for defining laws.
      I'm afraid not. As I explained the laws do not in fact cover all possibilities, and the wording can be missing, ambiguous, or even contradictory.

      You need to recognise that the referees have been over all this already. In order to do their job they need to agree on the interpretations that they will all use. Some of this gets dealt with formally: if a player catches the ball before it crosses the plane of touch, and has one foot on the touchline. everybody agrees that the ball is in touch. However initially some said the catcher had put the ball in touch, and some said the kicker (or whoever) had done so. New Zealand and Australia developed opposing interpretations so the IRB ruled that the catcher had not put the ball into touch.

      There is another controversy going at the moment. If a player kicks the ball into touch just short of the opposition 22m line and it rolls on some distance, you could envisage an extension of the 22m line and argue that the ball has gone past it so the kicker has put the ball into the opponents 22. This affects whether or not the opponents can gain ground by kicking direct to touch (after a quick throw-in, probably). South African referees say he can. English referees say what matters is where the ball crossed the touchline, not where it is pickled up. This one is unresolved.

      Some other standard usages are universal but not technically correct if you insist on following the wording of the law. At a ruck, the scrum half is allowed to pick the ball out (provided it is clearly one, even though the law say a player may not handle the ball ia ruck.

      Some scenarios are simply not covered: the ball is kicked towards touch. A player jumps, knocks the ball back in-field and then lands in touch. How do you decide if the ball was in touch? The only law reference close to covering this simply refers to a player jumping and catching the ball - it then matters where he lands.

      I could go on, but I won't. I want to make the point that trying to decide how the game should be played by looking at the laws, is not enough. Like a referee you need to not only know the laws but also how to apply them sensibly.

      Referees will heartily agree with you that many (most?) laws are badly written, but their job is to make them work.

      On the NZ try, the player could just push the ball forward, but instead he changes his grip to hold the ends of the ball. For me he is attempting to lift it to reach for the line. It is not clear if it does clear the ground, but I would give him the benefit of the doubt.
    1. tim White's Avatar
      tim White -
      I think most refs would give a try where the player had a clear grasp of the ball and 'slid' it along the ground. I firmly believe the prohibition of 'pushing' the ball over the tryline is to clearly show that as a knock-on rather than scoring a try.

      I have no proof but I see no problem either.
    1. OB..'s Avatar
      OB.. -
      Quote Originally Posted by tim White View Post
      I think most refs would give a try where the player had a clear grasp of the ball and 'slid' it along the ground. I firmly believe the prohibition of 'pushing' the ball over the tryline is to clearly show that as a knock-on rather than scoring a try.

      I have no proof but I see no problem either.
      Interesting.

      I haven't come across that view before. Most discussion revolves around the player moving his body in some way. Laws 15.5 (c) & (d) distinguish "putting" from "pushing". If the prohibition on "pushing" is indeed to demonstrate that there was no knock-on, I would expect it to apply to "reaching" as well.
    1. Browner's Avatar
      Browner -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pharginell View Post
      I'm an AB's supporter ..........

      Having been tortured by the indignant and rabble rousing, jowly flobbering of Brian Moore over the years .....

      ...... and deny that sentient potato a chance to get a round off.
      & I can imagine the MODs energetically sharpening their sanctioning pencil as they read this, apart from any like minded brethren who might merely overlook such directed wit.

      Whilst we've got you in full voice, tell us your perspective on 'that forward pass that Wayne Barnes didn't give', or the 'BoD spearing', or whether Richie McCaw was a full 2meters away from his teammates in the lineout as it commenced last weekend .....?!
      on second thoughts, don't, i'm happy to predict the 'slant'

      Welcome,
      [pulls up a comfy chair ].
    1. Brit50's Avatar
      Brit50 -
      Northampton vs Saracens Sunday April.16 This from match report....
      73 minutes
      Quote 'Bit of TMO-based drama. Billy Vunipola burst through and tried to loop a pass over to the right. Foden batted the ball up in the air and attempted to regather, but was taken out by Schalk Brits. Original decision is a scrum to Saracens. The TMO suggests another look, but Matthew Carley sticks with the initial call. unquote courtesy Daily Telegraph
      In fact ref even goes so far as to say there was 'no certainty' that guy who last touched ball (Foden) would have caught the ball. Rule 10.4 (f) clearly states "(f) Playing an opponent without the ball.
      Except in a scrum, ruck or maul, a player must not hold, push or obstruct an opponent not carrying the ball.
      Sanction: Penalty kick My rugby ref buddy says ref call was correct because the act of ball bouncing up from players' hands means he is in possession. Ridiculous IMO
    1. didds's Avatar
      didds -
      Isn't this the Tim Simpson ruling?
    1. ChuckieB's Avatar
      ChuckieB -
      A definition of possession, per what your buddy says, is newly introduced as law amendment trial for 2017 , but in respect of Law 19 specifically, i.e. clarity about a ball being juggled on and around touch.

      Then a quick search on the laws for Definition of possession does not present the same definition:

      Possession: This happens when a player is carrying the ball or a team has the ball in its control; for example, the ball in one half of a scrum or ruck is in that team’s possession.

      but it also then throws out:
      "Law 0:


      Definitions
      A player who is attempting to bring the ball under control is deemed to be in possession of the ball."

      Can't find where that "Law 0" is being cross referenced but I can perhaps infer it would be back to the LAW amendment Trial in Law 19. So the online laws have a bit of a "bug".

      So while it may indeed be there for the future, I suspect it is not perhaps intended for the situation envisaged above and, even if 2017 laws were applicable, I doubt this would have helped resolve the situation to many people's satisfaction.


      For me , gut is that wasn't a contest for the ball as such, or even a mistimed tackle.

      It was interference with a player who was attempting to play the ball and something not covered, or so I can see, in the strict definitions of foul play but something we can best pigeonhole into :

      "Playing a player without the ball is dangerous play" within 10.4 (e) Dangerous tackling.

      Personally I would err on the side of the penalty as I think this was the outcome best supported in law.

      According to David Flatman on the highlights, the officials suggested it was way more complicated than that.
    1. L'irlandais's Avatar
      L'irlandais -
      Hello Brit50,
      Not sure why you didn't start a new discussion for this, but seeing as you asked in this thread



      At 1 minute 20" into these short highlights the incident can be seen
      Referee's call was correct. The player does not have to be in possession to knock the ball on. That was clearly not a tackle, he had obviously lost his footing before contact with the opponent. Controversial only if you looking for controversy. (Jim Mallinder is no stranger to looking for it. Perhaps it is time to introduce a gagging order against coaches who repeatly question Official's decisions without any basis in law to back up their claims.). When players do actually take the man out without the ball, the tackled player quite often tends to get stretchered off afterwards.

      DEFINITION: KNOCK-ON
      A knock-on occurs when a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward, or when a player hits the ball forward with the hand or arm, or when the ball hits the hand or arm and goes forward, and the ball touches the ground or another player before the original player can catch it.


      It's not clear from that clip, was that an attempted interception of a floated pass? In which case it could be considered a deliberate knock-on preventing a (possible) try scoring pass. (No I wouldn't have penalized it, however, it's no less ridiculous than suggesting a penalty for tackling the man without the ball.)
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      Well, I thought that incident exposed an unexpected interpretation - in the discussion both TMO and Ref seemed to agree that Forden could NOT be tackled. But MC thought it wasn't material as Foden likely couldn't have regathered the ball anyway
    1. L'irlandais's Avatar
      L'irlandais -
      I always thought if a defender makes a bid to intercept a pass, he had better gather the ball. The fact he was never likely to get the ball makes it an infringement? So material in the sense it prevented the player (Red13) out wide going over for a try in the corner.
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      it was clearly a bona-fide attempt to catch the ball -- and very nearly succeeded. Certainly not a deliberate KO.
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      Quote Originally Posted by L'irlandais View Post
      however, it's no less ridiculous than suggesting a penalty for tackling the man without the ball.)
      you say that would be ridiculous, but that's exactly what the TMO stopped play to suggest ...
    1. L'irlandais's Avatar
      L'irlandais -
      Brit50 said it was ridiculous to consider the attempted interception as being in possession. I pointed out that to knock on the ball one didn't need to be in possession of it. I actually agree with the conclusion arrived at by referee, Matthew Carley and TMO, Graham Hughes.
      Even with the benefit of replays that is not a clear and obvious tackle, So nothing wrong with asking the TMO to have a look at it. In all honesty, Fodden had little chance of intercepting that ball. He then lands awkwardly and loses his footing.

      Previous forum discussions felt getting only one hand to the ball, was worthy of a penalty for a deliberate knock on. His actions disrupt the pass, So spoiling a try scoring chance for the opponents. The only saving grace would be regathering the ball, which in this instance he did not manage to do. YMMV.
    1. OB..'s Avatar
      OB.. -
      If a player tries to intercept a pass, but knocks it backwards. there is no offence. If he knocks it forwards, the referee has to decide if he did so deliberately.

      If he knocks it up in the air and is attempting to regather it, he must be considered "in possession" in the sense that he can be tackled - otherwise fumbling a catch protects you from being tackled.