Category Archives: Laws

Laws of Rugby

Clarification of Non-Engagement by Defense at Lineout

Clarification of Non-Engagement by Defense at Lineout

There has recently been a tactic employed specifically at lineouts where the defense will not engage in the maul.  The following recap by Richard Every highlights how this situation should be managed.

See attached video. The following is how to referee it:

DEFENSE NOT FORMING A MAUL AT A LINEOUT (as shown in this video between minute 4-5,

  1. If the ball carrier is in the front (even with team mates bound onto the ball carrier):
    1. The team may move forward.
    2. Defenders may tackle the ball carrier.
  2. If the ball is moved to the back:
    1. The team in possession is required to get the ball out:
    2. otherwise a scrum will be awarded for accidental offside, or
    3. if they move forward they are liable to a PENALTY KICK against them for obstruction.
  3. The lineout is not over if the ball is still on the line of touch
  4. The lineout is over if the ball is moved away from the line of touch and defenders may come around to tackle ball carrier or play the ball.
  1. If defenders voluntarily leave the maul, the maul continues even if no more defenders are part of the maul.
  2. If defenders fall off a moving maul the maul is over and the referee should instruct players to ‘use it’.
  3. If defenders fall off a moving maul but the maul immediately moves into the in-goal due to momentum and the ball is grounded by attackers a try should be awarded.
  4. If the maul legally goes to ground players are not required to roll away.
Also, the defenders (if they do not form a maul), MAY NOT LEAVE THE LINEOUT otherwise they are liable to be PENALIZED.

Richard Every | High Performance Referee Manager  | USA Rugby

World Rugby announces new measures to limit contact with the head

For immediate release: Wednesday 14 December 2016
Issued on behalf of World Rugby
World Rugby announces new measures to limit contact with the head
  • New law application guideline will codify zero-tolerance to contact with the head
  • Approach informed by largest-ever study identifying most common situations leading to head injuries
  • Players, coaches and match officials urged to be proactive in changing culture
  • Latest step in proactive, evidence-driven approach to injury reduction
  • Head is a no-go area

World Rugby has further strengthened its commitment to injury prevention by announcing details of a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and accidental head contact in the sport.

While injuries in the game are not on the rise, the federation continues to be proactive in furthering evidence-based strategies to reduce injury risk for all players.

In a change to law, World Rugby has redefined illegal (high) tackle categories and increased sanctions to deter high tackles via a law application guideline. This will apply at all levels of the game from 3 January 2017 introducing minimum on-field sanctions for reckless and accidental contact with the head, effectively lowering the acceptable height of the tackle.The guideline will be supported with a global education programme.

The approach, approved by the World Rugby Council after extensive expert, independent and union evaluation, combines with new disciplinary sanctions and a re-focus of match officials on dangerous play. It will provide a package of measures that aims to change culture in the sport to ensure that the head is a no-go area.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “World Rugby continues to be proactive in aligning with the latest evidence-based recommendations in this priority player welfare area to ensure players and coaches at all levels of the game are appropriately educated, managed and protected when it comes to head impacts and injury within the environment of a contact sport.

“We believe that we are playing a leading role in terms of the development and implementation of best-practice interventions and this important study further reflects our commitment to an evidence-based approach to player welfare. We believe that the invaluable data from this study will inform the law review process and lead to changes in playing or training practices.”

Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong said: “When it comes to protecting the head and neck of players, everyone is rightly very cautious now. The culture around concussion has completely changed and it’s no longer acceptable for players to continue in a game if they’re even suspected of having a concussion. When it comes to dealing effectively with concussion in sport, rugby is at the forefront. The International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) supports any measure that protects our welfare and we are in favour of this initiative, which we believe will help further to reduce head and neck injuries at all levels of the game. Rugby is a physical sport and there will always be a level of injury risk associated with it but the sport is doing as much as it can to make it as safe as possible.”

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery added: “The findings of this important research study will also be prepared into a series of scientific articles that we aim to have published in peer-reviewed journals. We continue to welcome and facilitate all quality research for the betterment of the game in this priority area.

“World Rugby is committed to playing a leading role in the sporting head injury agenda and continues to drive forward evidence-based strategies in education, prevention, management and research that are proving successful in protecting players at all levels of the sport.”

From 3 January, 2017, two new categories of dangerous tackles will carry penalty offences to deter and eradicate high tackles:

Reckless tackle
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.

Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card

Accidental tackle
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle.

Minimum sanction: Penalty


Global education programme
World Rugby will support this initiative with a global awareness and education programme aimed at:

  • Reinforcing the zero-tolerance culture regarding head contact in the game at all levels using practical advice and visual educational materials
  • Educating that illegal tackles are not necessarily defined by where they start as they can slip up from a legal position to make contact with the neck/head
  • Educating that “bent at the waist” while tackling and entering into contact is the optimal position for injury prevention
  • Promoting best-possible technique to protect the head – expert advice will be obtained from elite defence coaches to identify the best tackle technique and the best impact position for the ball-carrier, including guidelines on double and treble tackling.

World Rugby is also investigating the practicality of a closed trial of a lowered tackle height at community age-grade level in 2017.

Extensive research programme
This ground-breaking programme is entirely evidence-based and these interventions have been developed by game experts following extensive research examining videos of more than 600 incidents leading to head injury assessments (HIA)* occurring across 1,516 elite-level matches globally between 2012 and 2015.

Specifically, World Rugby investigated circumstantial and law factors that may contribute to head injury events to enable the international federation’s game expert group to determine whether potential law amendments or other interventions are indicated.

The study focused on tackle injuries and considered a number of conditions associated with the tackle including: The presence of foul play; what happened at the preceding event; the nature and angle of contact; body positions at the point of impact; the tackle height; the relative velocity at the time of impact; the number of tacklers involved; the type of tackle; and other variables.

The data confirmed that 76 per cent of all head injuries occur in the tackle, that the incidence of injury for the tackler is more than two and a half times greater than the ball-carrier and that tackle height is a contributing factor.

Headline findings:

  • 611 HIA incidents were reviewed from 1,516 elite matches
  • 76 per cent of HIA incidents occur in the tackle
  • 72 per cent of HIA incidents in the tackle occur to the tackler
  • Body position, speed and direction of tackle all influence risk

A specialist multi-disciplinary injury prevention group of game experts, comprising elite coaches and individuals with playing and match officiating experience at the elite and community levels was tasked with reviewing the data. The group then made recommendations to World Rugby’s Law Review Group and education departments for consideration with the following injury prevention interventions proposed to and approved by World Rugby’s Rugby and Executive Committees.

Editors’ notes:
While injuries in elite rugby are not increasing, Rugby is committed to an evidence-based approach to furthering injury-prevention in the sport and collaborates with subject specialists to deliver its suite of education, prevention, management and research strategies that are proven to be benefitting players at all levels. These programmes include:


  • Global ‘Recognise and Remove’ education programme in 2016 that has delivered an 80 per cent increase in the use of the website, which is delivered in 11 languages, while 3,100 medics have undertaken World Rugby’s elite immediate care in rugby course, 69,000 people have completed online concussion education and a further 250,000 have undertaken concussion education around the world within World Rugby’s Rugby Ready programme
  • World Rugby’s head injury guidance materials for the general public used by governments, agencies and sporting federations around the world
  • Concussion education modules and guidance for public, players and medics completed by 300,000 in 2015 and used as benchmark in sport, adopted by Scottish parliament (App available via iTunes store)
  • Mandatory accreditation of elite rugby doctors through ground-breaking tournament player welfare standards programme delivering consistency of assessment and treatment for emergency care and concussion assessment and management


  • Innovative and ground-breaking tournament player welfare standards programme boosting head injury best practice compliance
  • Untoward incident review system to ensure compliance of concussion management – a first for sport
  • A revised disciplinary sanctions framework that will operate from 3 January that will see tougher sanctions introduced for dangerous play relating to the head
  • Zero-tolerance approach to illegal or dangerous play within the match official community to deter contact with the head


  • Ground-breaking tournament player welfare standards adopted by major elite competitions, featuring six mandatory concussion education, management and review modules
  • Temporary replacement for Head Injury Assessment (HIA) adopted in law with reduction of concussed players returning to play following assessment from 56 per cent pre-HIA to four per cent at Rugby World Cup 2015
  • Introduction of pitch-side and medical room video review technology for head injury identification and assessment (used in over 60 per cent of permanent removal cases)
  • Three-point-in-time concussion assessment post-match and Graduated Return to Play
  • Independent concussion consultants advising on return to play following concussive symptoms at Rugby World Cup 2015


  • Player welfare the central consideration behind future law amendments with specialist multi-disciplinary injury-prevention group overseeing largest-ever study of head injury causes in the game
  • Commissioned and published peer-reviewed independent research investigating long-term health impact of rugby participation

For further information on World Rugby’s concussion education programmes and public guidance visit and you can download World Rugby’s free #RecogniseAndRemove concussion education App from the IOS store

View World Rugby’s Recognise and Remove education video here >> 

Watch a full interview with Dr Martin Raftery here >>

Kicking the ball in a ruck


If a player is part of the ruck he may attempt to kick the ball:
If he makes contact with a player on the ground which results in foul play, the sanction is a PK and possibly suspension/red card.
If he kicks the ball out of the scrumhalf’s hands the sanction is a PK and possibly suspension/red card.
If a player is not part of the ruck and then steps over or comes around the side of the ruck and kicks the ball:
PK and possibly suspension.
If he makes contact with a player on the ground which results in foul play, the sanction is a PK and possibly suspension/red card.
If he kicks the ball out of the scrumhalf’s hands the sanction is a PK and possibly suspension/red card.

RICHARD EVERY | High Performance Referee Manager | USA Rugby


These changes are effective immediately within the Northern Hemisphere.

Law 3 – Number of Players

3.5, which addresses the number of players who are capable of playing in the front row, and how their number affects the total number of players a team may use has been re-written for better clarity with no substantive changes. The part of this section which covers uncontested scrums has been split and now is a separate section (3.6). All the subsequent sections have been re-numbered.

3.12, which covers substituted players rejoining the match (now re-numbered to 3.14) has had one additional condition added. In addition to front row replacement, blood injury replacement and (in Elite games with WR permission) temporary replacement for Head Injury Assessment, a substituted player may be used to replace a player who was injured as a result of Foul Play (as verified by the Match Officials).

Law 4 – Player Clothing (Clarification)

Player jerseys must have sleeves that extend at least half way from the point of the shoulder to the elbow.

Law 5 – Time (Clarification)

In the last year there were a couple of Clarifications regarding what happens when there is a score very close to the end of the half or the game. Those have been incorporated into Law [5.7 (g) and (h)]. In essence, if the the conversion kick is taken (or the try awarded and the team chooses not to take the conversion per 9.B.2) before time expires, the next restart will happen even if time expires between the kick and when the players are prepared to restart. And, if a restart is taken under these circumstances with time expired, and the kick is taken incorrectly (e.g. not ten, etc.), the referee will offer the options in Law 13.

Law 6 – The Referee’s Authority

6.C, which covers persons coming onto the pitch to treat injured players has been re-written to make distinction between qualified and unqualified medical staff. Sub-sections 2 and 3 have been combined into one.

Law 8 – Advantage

The section listing situations where advantage cannot be played (8.3) has seen collapsed scrums removed. The referee now has the option of playing advantage if he feels players are not endangered. The referee DOES NOT have the option of playing advantage if the front row is lifted.

Law 9 – Scoring

In the 7s Variations, the time the kicker has to take the conversion after a try is now thirty seconds from the time the try is awarded.

Law 10 – Foul Play

Unfair Play – 10.2. A new provision has been added. “A player must not commit any act that may lead the match officials to consider that that player was subject to foul play or any other type of infringement committed by an opponent.” Penalty Kick.

Section 10.3 (b) – Repeated Infringements. The last sentence has been removed. The referee is no longer constrained in how a second repeat offender is handled.

Law 12 – Throw Forward

The definition has been slightly re-written for clarity with regard to “towards the dead ball line.”

The definition has also been augmented to include the Clarifications regarding balls being knocked or ripped out of the ball carrier’s hands by a defender.

Law 17 – Maul

This isn’t a Law change, but rather some guidance on the application. The ball in a maul may be moved backwards hand-to-hand. A player is not allowed to move/slide to the back of the maul when that player is in possession of the ball.

Law 19 – Lineout

19.4 (b), which addresses the ball being knocked-on into touch has been revised to also include thrown-forward into touch (which was already part of 12.1). (Clarification)

The section addressing blocking the throw-in has been re-written so that it applies to all players (not just lineout players). 19.10 (h)

Law 20 – Scrum

There is now a specific time on the “no delay in forming a scrum”. Free kick after thirty seconds. 20.1 (d)

Front rows coming together has been slightly re-written to require the players be “ear to ear”. 20.1 (f)

Ending the scrum now includes a “use it” provision once the ball is at the last player’s feet and is not moving forward. 20.10 (d)

A scrum that has wheeled past 180 is no longer a turnover. The original team throws in again. 20.11 (b)

The scrum half of the team not in possession must now stay out of the pocket.
20.12 (c)

Law 21 – Penalty and Free Kicks

All penalty and free kicks that are awarded close to the goal line are to be given five meters out, regardless of the team (no longer just the attacking team’s penalties).
21.2 (a)

Referee Development Summit – Jan 30-31, 2016 – Columbia, MO

Fellow referees,

The Referee Development Summit (RDS) is on!!

The Mid-America Rugby Football Union board has approved the funding of this important event. It will be held on January 30th and 31st at Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center in Columbia, Missouri. MARRS referees traveling from outside of Columbia will have a hotel room provided by the society that they will share with one other member. In addition, all referees will be reimbursed for mileage (attendees should carpool wherever possible).

General information
We will start at noon on Saturday with registration and lunch from 11:30 am and work until 6:00 pm. We would then all enjoy a group dinner. We will resume again Sunday morning about 8:30 am, continue for another 90-120 minutes before winding up with a referee society Annual General Meeting (AGM) and then departing.

This agenda is currently being worked on. We will send it out when it is available.

Hotel rooms
The hotel rooms have already been booked. After we receive registrations from referees for the available slots we have available, that will be all that the hotel can accommodate – they are completely booked that weekend.

To register for this event, go this the RDS registration form. Please be sure to indicate your jersey size on the form.

This event is one month away. Many individuals have already put in a lot of effort to get this event off the ground. We need to maximize participation within the referee society. If you selected this weekend as your first choice on the earlier survey, we expect that you will make every effort to attend.

Barry Tantaris
Interim President, Mid-America Rugby Referee Society