Law Questions

Q . A penalty kick at goal, missed but is chased and then knocked on in in-goal. Decision.

Society response:

Law 1: The playing area includes in-goal

Law 11.1 A knock-on can occur anywhere in the playing area

Law 7 Advantage

There is no specific mention of this set of circumstances in law, but several years ago an attacking side knocking-on near the goal line into in-goal and the defending side making a touch-down (by grounding the ball in in-goal) then leading to the defending side being awarded a 22m drop-out was judged to be an unfair application of the law of advantage compared with the attacking side knocking-on a little further from the goal line and the defending side only being awarded a scrum within their 22m area (possibly even a 5m scrum).

A defender knocking-on in in-goal will only concede an attacking 5m scrum.

An attacking player losing the ball forward in in-goal (rather than knocking-on) or incorrectly grounding the ball in in-goal (not using the arms or torso) only concedes a defending 5m scrum.

For consistency, a knock-on in in-goal should also only result in a defending 5m scrum.


Q. Defending a deep kick through from red, the defending team (blue) form a ruck 1 metre from their own try line. The ball becomes available to play and ends up behind the blue goal-line whilst still within the hindmost feet of blue players.  An attacking player (red) runs around the side and grounds the ball.

What is your decision?

Society response:

Law 15.1

Law 21.6

Try.  A ruck (as with a lineout, a scrum and a maul) can only take place in the field of play.  When the ball crosses the goal line, the ruck ends and open play begins.


Q. You award a penalty on the halfway line to Red. Red 9 taps quickly and runs into a non-retreating Blue player, no advantage is available. You blow and march Blue back to the 10m line. When can the eager-beaver Red 9 take the penalty?

Society response:

Law 10.10b An opposition player carries the ball five metres in any direction; ……

Law 10.11a Fails to retire without undue delay……

Law 20.12 Obliges players to retreat 10m from the mark of the penalty (or goal line if closer).

Law 20.14 If it is taken so quickly that opponents have no opportunity to retreat, they will not be sanctioned for this.

This is a Player management issue: Whilst there is an obligation on offside Blue players to put themselves onside promptly, the Red 9 should not be allowed to “buy” a second penalty by intentionally running into an opponent unless other Blue players also effectively prevented his/her opportunity to run in whatever direction he/she wished.  If the Red 9 has already run 5m (in any direction) before contact with Red, then consider playing on.

However, having decided to advance the penalty to the 10m line (from the detailed situation seen by the referee perhaps with Red always being slow getting back onside), the Red 9 cannot take the advanced penalty until the referee has made the mark on the 10m line.  The referee might decide to walk slowly to the 10m line telling the Blue players to get themselves onside quickly and may not even make the mark until the Blue players are all onside.  Have a feel for the temper and tempo of the game and manage it accordingly.


Q. After a penalty within 5m of the line, can a lineout be taken.

Society response:

Law 20.4 refers: A team awarded a penalty or free-kick at a lineout may instead choose a lineout or a scrum at the same mark.

So, if the penalty was from a lineout, then the non-offending team, can opt for the lineout.  If not, they can take a scrummage or kick for touch and take a lineout or kick for goal or tap and run.  It wouldn’t have to be a lineout offence on the 5m line.


Q. Defending a 5m scrum, the red #9 passes back to his #10 who is deep in the in-goal area. He kicks clear with all his might. His winger, standing 1 metre behind the try-line is the only player who gives chase.

The kick holds up in the wind and is caught by the winger on the 22m line and finds himself in clear space and scores a try.


Society response:

Law 10 Offside and onside in open play

Whilst Law 21 In-goal covers certain aspects of play within in-goal, it does not cover this specific query.

As we can’t have a scrum, ruck, maul or lineout within in-goal, most play within in-goal is actually open play.

A player who is in front of his/her team mate who last played the ball is offside (Law 10.1).  Hence any player in front of that kicker who kicked from deep within his/her “in goal” is offside unless either the kicker puts them onside or they retire until they put themselves onside or a player from behind the kicker puts them onside.

The laws have to be read as a “whole” not selectively and in the same way that offside at scrum, lineout, ruck and maul are shown within those sections, even though there is a section for “in goal”, much of what does happen in goal generally happens in open play, so Law 10 is also relevant.


Q. Can I get your opinion on the line out and the throw in?  What is considered not straight… perhaps it’s me wanting to ref getting the ball down the middle, however it seems that this isn’t quite how it’s deemed anymore and I’d like to get some perspective on how “off not straight” is allowed… thanks as always.

Society response

One of the fundamental principles of play is continuity of competition for the ball.  However, one of the elements that referees need to appreciate is “materiality” – the art of not stopping the game for a minor offence that does not affect play. 

Is a side not competing at the lineout entitled to a choice of lineout or scrum?  Hence if the non-throwing side does not compete at the lineout, a referee may decide that a degree of “not exactly down the middle” is not actually material.

Generally, a ball entering the lineout reasonably straight and travelling between the inside shoulders of all lineout players may be considered credible if not competed by the non-throwing side, but a similar ball for which a jumper is lifted to compete for the ball may well be sanctioned by the referee should a straighter ball have given the non-throwing side a reasonable chance of winning that ball.

Additionally, on a windy day, the ball might enter the lineout (at the 5m line) straight and then drift off line, or have to be thrown in slightly off line in order to be straight when it reaches the jumper.  Have some empathy here.

If allowing play to continue after a non-contested lineout, feel free to shout “Not contested, play on!” if you never included your intentions in this matter in your pre-match briefing.


Q. Blue throw in misses completely and goes not straight but this time he throws to the outside arm of red – so very not straight!  Anyway, Red don’t react to the opportunity and don’t catch the ball, however a keen eyed Blue player races through onto the not straight ball.  I blow and give a scrum to red for the not straight.  Could I have played on?

Society response:

Law 18.23a refers.  No, do not play on.  Even though the throw by Blue was in favour of Red, Red has clearly had no advantage from the not straight throw by Blue.  Hence Red is to be offered the choice of another lineout with Red throw or a scrummage with Red put in.


Q. Scenario: Black are attacking with one minute left, but are 8 points behind. White under the cosh, concede penalty in the red zone directly in front of the posts. No YC is necessary.

Black scrum half, without signalling for attempt at goal, with players from both teams in front of the kicker, performs a perfect drop kick which sails through the posts. He does not ‘tap’ before the kick – just kicks it.


Society response:

Law 8.23 refers.  (Good call Phil Marris): Award the drop goal and restart the match (as one minute of playing time will not have been entirely consumed by the drop goal). 

Don’t allow White to try and delay the restart in the hope that time will expire.  Both teams now have the opportunity to either win the match or secure a losing bonus point.


Q. U15 line out question:
Referee during pre-match talk (great to see) says as the lineout is uncontested the non-throwing side cannot move until either:

  1. the catcher lands back on the ground and the ball below his shoulders, or
    B) the ball off the top is in the hands of the scrum half.


Society Response:

World Rugby Law 18 refers with respect to circumstances that determine that a lineout is over and open play commences.

RFU Age Grade Player Progression leaflet refers:

Click to access AG%20Flyer%202019.pdf

Principles are further explained at:

Detailed age grade allowed/not allowed practices are shown in the appendices of Regulation 15.

Refereeing is an art form not an absolute prescriptive science and all refereeing needs to be empathatic with the skills and abilities of the players – both in junior and adult rugby.  The Age Grade Player Progression pathway seeks to allow a new skill (in this example lineout lifting) to be practiced and developed for a full season before that skill set is brought under pressure by competitive lifting.

The limitations applicable at U15 lineout are to ensure the safety of the lifted player.  Once that lifted player is back on the ground, whatever options the non-throwing side were allowed to exercise at U14 can now be exercised – including tackling or sacking the catcher.  Also the catching side can now exercise their options including either passing the ball or forming a maul before passing the ball.  These skills developing from previous age grade progression should only be curtailed in the interests of safety and/or continuity and the referee should make his/her subjective judgement as the game requires.

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