Law Question: Line Out Thrown blown back by strong wind


Hooker throws the ball both straight and beyond the 5 metre line but it is blown back by a gust of wind and the hooker, who has advanced into the field of play, catches his own throw.

Any issues?

Society response:

Unusual but play on: The throw has complied with Law 18. 23 (b) by reaching the 5 metre line and subsequently when it then enters the area between the 5m line and the touchline, the lineout has ended despite not having been played by a participating player – before the hooker catches it.

Elsewhere in law, kick offs, restarts and 22m dropouts explicitly state that play continues when the ball has reached a specific “plane”.

However, for a kick at goal if it crossed the bar before being blown back, the goal is awarded.

Response written December 21st, 2018.

Law Question: Three penalties close to goal line


Whites have penalty 10m from Blacks try line. Take a tap and Blacks infringe again.

Whites have second penalty now on 5m line. Blacks infringe by not staying behind the try line.

Third successive penalty – on 5m line. Blacks again infringe by not going behind the try line and intercept the man with the ball.

What’s the call and should there be penalty try and or yellow card at third offence or earlier?

Does the level of the game affect the decision?

Society response:

Playing Charter (2018 Law Book, page 11); Principles of the Laws and their Application:

There is an over-riding obligation on the players to observe the laws and to respect the principles of fair play.

Law 9.9: A player must not repeatedly infringe the laws. Sanction: Penalty

Law 9.10: When different players of the same team repeatedly commit the same offence, the referee gives a general caution to the team and if they repeat the offence, the referee temporarily suspends the guilty player(s).

“Escalation” is an established, accepted and often used tool in game management – e.g. repeated free kick offences are escalated to penalty kicks.

So if the same player commits several different offences, the referee should formally caution that player and if he commits another such offence, the referee is justified in escalating that subsequent penalty to a Yellow Card,

Where different players in a team can even be considered to “take turns” in committing an offence, then Law 9.10 specifically requires the referee to issue a Yellow Card.

Justifying a penalty try requires the “probability” of a score by the attacking side. (Law 8.3) The referee has to make that decision based on exactly what he/she observes in that specific instance. Call it as you see it there and then, but from the description given above (assuming that “intercepting the man with the ball” means tackling him rather than preventing a “scoring pass” to an unmarked player) then a Yellow Card is certainly warranted. If the latter then a penalty try and a Yellow Card to the offending player. (Second sentence in Law 8.3)

Game/Player Management suggestion:

After a second penalty within 10m of their own goal line, it is worth warning the captain of the offending side of the possibility of escalation. This should not be a threat, but an encouragement to the offending side to adjust their behaviour or risk/suffer the consequences. The referee can even ensure that all players are onside before the third penalty is allowed to be taken. (Particularly in junior rugby.) It certainly can’t be taken quickly if the referee is issuing a caution.

With respect to the level of game, referees need to understand the level of competence, knowledge and awareness of the players. There are no “rigid rules” here. Early communication to the captain of the side committing repeated offences is essential in the hope of avoiding the escalation to Yellow Cards – but if behaviour does not improve then there is no option – as the frustration of the non-offending players can lead to more serious issues with which the referee has to deal.

Response written December 21st, 2018.

Law Question: Pushing a player into touch


Can you push a ball carrier into touch?

I have recently seen a senior referee allow it, and also have read an assessor’s report say it’s forbidden. Thoughts?

Society Response

From Law 9

Law 9.11               Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others.

Law 9.16               A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player.

References elsewhere in the 2018 Law Book to pushing an opponent only refer to actions against an opponent NOT in possession of the ball, so pushing an opponent IN possession of the ball is not against the law unless it invokes Law 9.11 or Law 9.16.

If the ball carrier ends up clattering into non padded equipment or spectators then the push may be considered either reckless or dangerous and liable to sanction (Law 9.11). If the ball carrier remains on his feet and merely steps into touch and slows down without such contact, then this may not be worthy of sanction.

However, if the ball carrier is knocked down as a result of the push and hasn’t been held then the player who pushed him is liable to sanction (Law 9.16).

Response written December 21st, 2018.

Law Question: Hand-Offs in Age Grade Rugby


What is the RFU stance on hand-offs in the age grade game above U12 (at or below which it is not permitted as per regulation) or U13 (Appendix 7 to the Regulation clearly states below the armpits)?

I often hear both coaches and players quoting that they must be no higher than chest height but my understanding is that there is nothing provided for in U19 law variations or the RFU age grade regulations to support that view and handoffs above chest height are permitted as long as they are safely performed. Am I missing something?

(The game in question was U15 Girls fixture)

Society response:

The definition of a hand off in the 2018 Law Book (page 18) is: A permitted action, taken by the ball carrier to fend off an opponent, using the palm of the hand.

Any and all U19 Law variations apply to junior matches sanctioned by the RFU (i.e. those played in England). Additionally Regulation 15 applies to Age Grade Rugby (and has different Appendices for each age group).

Relevant sections of the Regulations for U11, U12, U13 and U14 upwards are hereby shown below:

Age grade Appendix Constraint
U11 5 ( 14 (a) NO fend off or hand off
U11 5 ( 5 (iii) Sanction for fend off or hand off is a Free Kick
U12 6 14 (a) The ball carrier may run and dodge potential tacklers but must not fend or hand them off above the armpits.
U13 (boys) 7 14 (b) The ball carrier may run and dodge potential tacklers but must not fend or hand them off above the armpits.
U13 (girls) 10 ( 14 (a) NO fend off or hand off
(U12 can play too) ( 5 (iii) Sanction for fend off or hand off is a Free Kick
U14 (boys) 8 and thereafter (i.e. U15 and above) there is NO reference to fend off or hand off, so it is an allowed action providing it complies with the definition and is safe
U15-U18 (girls) 11 there is NO reference to fend off or hand off, so it is an allowed action providing it complies with the definition and is safe
Age Allowed Constraint
U11 NO Not Applicable
U12 YES But NOT above the armpits
U13 YES But NOT above the armpits
U13 (girls) NO Not Applicable
U14 (boys) YES none specified
& above
U15-U18 (girls) YES none specified

Response written December 21st, 2018.

Law Question: Defending player in “three point stance” rather than just on their two feet


Is a player offside if, although his feet are on side, he has a hand in contact with the ground ahead of the offside line?


Society response:

Law 15.4 Each team has an offside line that runs parallel to the goal line through the hindmost point of any ruck participant.

Using this logic/reasoning, the picture clearly shows that the Black player in a three point stance is offside – purely from his feet position – and liable to sanction.

A ruck/maul defender making contact by hand with the ground ahead of the offside line renders such a player offside – even if his feet are onside and carrying his weight.

Hence should a defender have both feet behind his/her offside line and no other part of his/her body on the ground (i.e. they are demonstrably self-supporting entirely on their feet), then they may have torso, shoulders head or arms over the plane of the offside line, but a three point stance with the hand on the ground over the offside line can be justifiably sanctioned.

If his feet were on side and didn’t move, could he lift his hand from the ground and not fall over? Some will say “yes” and some will say “no” bringing in the need for a judgement call.

At the top level nowadays referees penalise a post tackle arriving player who puts his hands on the ground before grabbing the ball – often as he’s cleared out himself. (Law 13 Principle.).

Principle of Law 13: The game is played only by players who are on their feet.

Law 13.3: A player on the ground without the ball is out of the game and must (c) Not tackle or attempt to tackle an opponent.

The pictures supporting the offside law (within the various sections of the Law book) show that this applies to both feet, but only show any such player in a “two point” stance (i.e. feet only in contact with the ground), but can show such a player with their hands on his/her own knees and this may well bring that player’s torso over the plane of the offside line.

Should that player attempt to tackle an opponent by lifting the hand and driving forwards and if lifting the hand and stepping forward (when legal to so) restores the player to his/her feet, then a penalty is hard to justify as that player has started entirely from an onside position and got back to his/her feet before attempting that tackle.

Response written December 21st, 2018 – updated 6th January 2019.