Law Clarification by World Rugby – Replacements

When a referee whistles a penalty or a free kick, is the ball considered dead, in which case, is a player replacement possible?

There are two issues which must both happen for the replacement to occur:

  • The ball is dead
  • The Referee gives permission

The award of an FK or PK does not in itself mean the ball is dead and players may tap and go. However, sometimes when an FK or PK occurs alongside an incident such as an injury the Referee will make the ball dead and allow the replacement. On that basis, sometimes a replacement may occur after a FK or PK but not always. The referee needs to make the ball dead.

The definition of dead is: The ball is dead when the referee blows the whistle to stop play or following an unsuccessful conversion.

The crucial law here is 3.6 whereby: Replacements are made only when the ball is dead and only with the permission of the referee. 

A clarification made in 2012 is relevant here. It states;

Law 3.11(b)
A player who leaves a match because of injury or any other reason must not rejoin the match until the referee permits the player to return. The referee must not let a player return until ball is dead.

Law 5.7(e)
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-offending 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.

Law 8.3(f)
After the ball has been made dead. Advantage cannot be played after the ball has been made dead.

1. Team A have a player waiting to return from a temporary exclusion and the period of exclusion has expired. They kick the ball into touch. Team B wish to take a quick lineout. Does the referee allow the quick lineout or allow the player from Team A to return to the field?

2. Same scenario but a substitution has been asked for rather than the end of a temporary exclusion period.
Clarification of the designated members of the Rugby CommitteeLaw 3.11(b) states that “A player who leaves a match because of injury or any other reason must not rejoin the match until the referee permits the player to return. The referee must not let a player rejoin a match until the ball is dead.”

The referee in such circumstances is entitled to allow a team to take a quick throw-in. If the referee allows a quick throw-in, the player who has been temporarily suspended or replaced will be permitted to rejoin the match at the next stoppage in play as decided by the referee.

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