Posted September 24th, 2009






From Peter Watson, Chair of USA Rugby's Laws Committee:




There have been seven Rulings so far this year.  There was also a decision made regarding the Experimental Law Variations that went into effect on August 1, 2008.  All were accepted as full Law, with the exceptions of:




Entering mauls with head/shoulders below hips (no longer allowed = FK)




Pulling down mauls (no longer allowed = PK)




Numbers in lineouts (team throwing in sets the maximum and opponents must have the same number or fewer in the lineout = FK)




The Rulings issued last year regarding when a maul ends (General Ruling #4 and ELV Rulings #1 and #5) remain valid.




If opposing players leave a maul voluntarily the maul continues to exist and may be driven forward without sanction for obstruction.




If opposing players leave a maul involuntarily the maul has ended.  The referee should communicate this and the team in possession is liable to sanction for obstruction if they continue to move forward (PK).



Ruling 1 – Knocked into Touch




The question asked was about playing advantage from a knock-on that subsequently went into touch with the throw belonging to the team that did not knock-on.  Can advantage continue so the non-offending team can take a quick throw-in if they so choose?




The Ruling is that once the ball has gone into touch, it has become dead.  If advantage had not yet been gained, then the scrum should be




Ruling 2 – Grounding in In-Goal Simultaneous With Touching the Dead Ball Line




The scenario posed was one where a player touched the ball down in In-Goal and at the exact same time stepped onto or over the Dead Ball Line. 




The Ruling was that the game was stopped with no evidence to award either a try or a 22 drop out.  Therefore Law 20.1 (c) says there

should be a five-meter scrum and 20.4 (d) awards the scrum to the attacking team.  This is very similar to a “held up in In-Goal” situation.



Ruling 3 – End of Time at Scrum or Lineout   




If a scrum or lineout has been awarded and then time expires, the referee must allow play to continue until the scrum or lineout has been completed and ball next becomes dead.  The question asked concerned a scrum that collapsed or was lifted without penalty.  Should this scrum be reset or should the half be ended? 




The Ruling was that since the scrum was stopped for safety reasons without reaching a successful conclusion, the scrum had not

been completed and must be reset.




There was a similar question regarding a lineout that is awarded and then time expires.  If the ball is thrown unfairly (e.g. not

straight), the referee should end the half.  The original lineout has been completed and there has been an infringement that

made the ball dead.




[Note that if there were a penalty or free kick offense committed during the lineout, the kick should be awarded and play allowed

to continue until it next becomes dead.]



Ruling 4 – Formation of Ruck




This Ruling addresses the dividing line between a tackle and the formation of a ruck.  At a tackle players who have complied with Tackle Law (on their feet, correct zone entry) may attempt to gain possession of the ball with hands.  At a ruck players must not play the ball with their hands. 




Since the definition of a ruck carries the direct implication that no player has possession when a ruck forms, if a player has possession of the ball prior to contact with an opponent (which would otherwise form the ruck) then that player may continue to play the ball.  




This Ruling was accompanied by a video illustrating acceptable examples of players gaining possession and continuing to play the ball,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbNg9kkDjmo Note that in all examples shown the outcome is immediate production of the ball.  If the

actions of the first arriving player do not result in the ball becoming immediately available, then those actions should be viewed critically. 

“Protective” is not the same as “productive”.



Ruling 5 – Front Row Replacement




In the situation presented, a team started the match with the required number of front row replacements. The team had used its entire list of nominated replacements and due to injuries was no longer able to scrummage safely, resulting in uncontested scrums. 




The question asked was could the team bring in one of their other players who had been substituted to replace the front row player whose injury necessitated uncontested scrums (per Law 3.12)?




The Ruling was that the purpose of 3.12 is to allow contested scrums to continue. 




If there were no available front row players AND all other reserves have been used, then the team is not allowed to bring in some other

player for the purpose of keeping fifteen on the field.




The bottom line is that if a team has used all its reserves and another player is injured, whether front row or not, that team has to play short.

Note that the question asked and the answer given were quite narrow.  Do not read more into this than there actually is, and don’t try to




Ruling 6 – U19 Reduced Numbers in Scrums




This Ruling clarified that under U19 Variations, Law 20.1 (f), which requires matching numbers and formations in scrums, only requires reduced numbers in scrums if either team is short a forward. 




If either team loses a back (for any reason – injury, send-off, etc.) then scrums can continue with eight players.

If either team loses a forward, then scrums must be reduced to seven for both teams.



Ruling 7 – Joining a Ruck




This question addressed the manner in which players may join rucks.  Law 16.2 (b) requires that a player join by binding onto a teammate. 




The Ruling stated that players joining a ruck must bind before or simultaneously with contact by any other part of the joining player’s 

body, including the shoulder.  This is a safety issue.  Players cannot come in like a missile and then bind as an afterthought.




The Ruling also recognized that in some cases a ruck turns such that a player coming from an on-side position to join as required by 16.5

(c) will bind onto an opponent.  That is acceptable, keeping in mind Law 10.4 (j) [no dangerous charging].




From David Carrigy, iRB Head of Member and External Relations




Request for a Ruling from the Designated Members of USA Rugby

The request for a Ruling arises from the way that players are required to join a ruck which appears to be covered by a number of sections

in the Law Book and in particular:




Law 16.2 (b)

A player joining a ruck must bind onto the ruck with at least one arm around the body of a team-mate using the whole arm.




Law 10.4 (j)

Players must not charge into a ruck or maul without binding onto a player in the ruck or maul.





This leads to the following questions:






Does a player joining a ruck have to bind on a team-mate?






Can a player joining a ruck bind on to an opposition player?






Does the contact with the arm have to precede contact with any other part of the body?






Does the contact with the arm have to be simultaneous with contact with any other part of the body?






Can contact with the shoulder precede contact with the binding arm?





Ruling of the Designated Members:

The Designated Members in reviewing the Request for Ruling also had in mind Law 10 4 (g) Dangerous Charging.  A player must not

charge or knock down an opponent without trying to grasp that player.


The grasping of a player on contact in open play and binding on contact at rucks and mauls is designed to protect players on impact.

Bearing this in mind the Designated Members have ruled:






If a teammate is the hindmost player in the ruck then a player must bind onto that player in accordance with Law 16.5 (c) – Offside at the ruck.






It is recognized in a dynamic game that rucks are not perfectly formed and therefore to comply with Law 16.5 - Offside at the ruck, contact may have to occur with an opposition player.  This contact would require a bind to take place in accordance with Law 10.4 (j).






In answer to questions 3, 4, and 5 the bind onto another player when joining the ruck must either precede or be simultaneous with contact with any other part of the body including the shoulder of the joining player.







In addition to the Rulings, the iRB also issued two directives requesting increased attention to two areas.



Dangerous Tackling




The iRB reiterated a 2007 Ruling regarding tackles in which the ball carrier is lifted and tipped horizontally and then dropped or forced to the ground.  The sanction for this should start at Red Card and work backwards only if there are extraordinary extenuating circumstances.




This was accompanied by a video example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8Dso8Gc0gc



Maul Obstruction




The iRB issued instructions for increased referee vigilance regarding obstruction at mauls.  The three specific areas addressed are:

Formation at a lineout, particularly by supporters of the jumper.

Formation in open play, primarily from kicks.

Ball carrier detaching at the back and continuing to move forward.

There is a video containing examples, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vVswqjHhqI&feature=related



Please contact me with any questions.


Peter Watson

Chair, USA Rugby Laws Committee



From USA Rugby's Rugby Committee




National Union Variation for iRB Law 3 - September 14th, 2009

The following competition regulation applies for any match that leads in any way to a USA Rugby National Championship:


All matches shall be governed by iRB Law 3 with respect to Substitutions and Front Row replacements.  In particular, Law 3.14 “Union Specific Variations” will apply to Front Row replacements.


Failure to have three Trained and Experienced Front Row Players at the start of a match will result in a forfeit.


Clubs/Teams shall submit a Match Roster nominating a maximum of 23 players, i.e., 15 starting players and a maximum of eight reserves.


The table below indicates the required numbers of suitably Trained and Experienced Front Row Players for different the number of Players on a Match Roster:

Number of Players on the


Required number of suitably

Trained and Experienced Front Row Players



16, 17, or 18


19, 20, or 21


22 or 23



Should a Club/Team lose all of their available Front Row Players, then uncontested scrums will take place but the Club/Team opting out of the set-piece will not be able to replace the injured player - forcing them to continue with only fourteen players. (Note:  This is a change to the existing Laws and ensures that a Club/Team going to uncontested scrums does not gain an advantage.)

Excerpt from changes to iRB Law 3 effective May 23rd, 2009





(a) A Union having jurisdiction  (or where a match or competition is played between Clubs/Teams from two or more Unions those Unions by agreement between them) may implement variations to Law 3.14 for  matches below International Level as set out in

3(b) and/or 3(c) below.



(b) When 22 or 23 players are nominated in a Club/Team there must be sufficient Front Row Players to play at hooker, tight-head prop, and loose-head prop who are suitably Trained and Experienced to ensure that on the first occasion that a replacement in any Front Row position is required, the Club/Team can continue to play safely with contested scrums.



(c) A provision may be introduced that where uncontested scrums are ordered as result of there being NO suitably Trained and Experienced Front Row replacement for any reason, the Club/Team concerned play with not more than 14 players.




From USA Rugby's Referee Development Department



Akuma Signs on as Kit Supplier for USA Rugby National Panel Referees



BOULDER, Colo. - USA Rugby’s Referee Development Department is pleased to announce that they have partnered with Akuma Rugby to be the official kit supplier to the National Panel and National Focus Group Referees for the upcoming season. 


Akuma Rugby and USA Rugby’s Referee Development Department have signed a one-year deal which will outfit the National Panel Referees, Focus Group Referees and National Panel Assistant Referees who will actively officiate the 2010 Rugby Super League season.

"We are committed to a quality product, and are proud to be represented by a professional enthusiastic group of people" said Steve Winyard, Director of Akuma Rugby - North America.  “We are excited to partner with USA Rugby and feel it will be a very valuable addition to the Akuma Rugby brand.”


With the Rugby Super League season kicking off in early March and lasting for 12 weeks, Akuma will be sported by match officials in a total of 63 matches throughout the Rugby Super League season.


“The match officials are key participants in the game of Rugby,” stated Ed Todd, Director of Referee Development.  “They need to be viewed as professional and uniformed as the teams playing on the field.  Akuma offers a great looking product and we are excited to be working with them for this upcoming season.”


For more information on the National Panel and Focus Group Referees, check out www.usarugby.org/goto/national_panel.  For more information on Akuma Rugby, check them out online at http://www.akumarugby.com.