June Tests - Clarifications

June Clarifications

To bring some perspective to some of the rugby we’ve seen during the June international window, here is a collection of comments and clarifications arising from the first three rounds.  This is a challenging time for clubs and referees, as World Rugby attempts to bring the world into sync ahead of next year’s world cup.  Commentary and feedback like this are what referees in the high performance pool are receiving, to help them both perform at a higher level on the field and learn how to become more insightful critics of the game when they self-reflect on their own performances.  

Round 1

Foul Play

Match | Clip | Comment

NZ v FRA (1st) | High Tackle 

PK only but not a YC

NZ v FRA (1st) | High Tackle

YC for NZ 7 as strike to head but no force. Much has been discussed about NZ18 but for me I don’t rule his action as foul play

USA V RUS | High Tackle

Correct decision, initial contact below the shoulder line and then slips up

SA v ENG (1st) | Late charge 

Correct decision in the context of the game as he didn’t have to follow through and had previously been involved

AUS v IRE (1st) | Tackle in the air

PK only as timing out and G15 didn’t pull player to ground

ARG v WAL (1st) | Tackle in the air

PK only as again timing out and W10 didn’t pull player to ground


General Play

CAN v SCO | Deliberate knock on

Correct decision as probable try would have been scored

JPN v ITA (1st) | Deliberate knock on

Correct decision, no opportunity for line break

NZ v FRA (1st) | Knock on Offside

Scrum call correct as F15 puts F14 onside before he catches the ball

WAL v SA | Knocked out of play

Q, was the ball deliberately knocked dead? Yes so YC. Would a probable try have been scored? No so no PT



NZ v FRA (1st) | Gaps

While I understand the FK, it should be PK for jumping across as F4 clearly makes contact with opposition

NZ v FRA (1st) | Gaps

Correct decision because first time it was a FK  



NZ v FRA (1st) | Offside – retreating player

NZ3 offside, should be PK

SA v ENG (1st) | Offside – retreating player

SA9 never gets to hindmost foot so clearly offside, AR input??

AUS v IRE (1st) | Offside – retreating player

Correct decision for lazy runner



JPN v ITA (1st) | Grounding

Correct decision

CAN v SCO | Grounding

Correct decision  

AUS v IRE (1st) | Knock on

TMO has clear footage to show ball was lost forward so correct not to award try. If the screen had gone blank what would you as a ref awarded?

AUS v IRE (1st) | Playing opp w/out ball

This tackle should either have been dealt with immediately or not at all.


Round 2

Foul Play

NZ v FRA (2nd) | Foul play referral

Dominant tackle that becomes a tip tackle because of contact to players on the ground and therefore PK only

SA v ENG (2nd) | Foul play referral

In the context of this game a YC should have been awarded

AUS v IRE (2nd) | Chop Tackle

No attempt to make a tackle, PK and YC  

ARG v WAL (2nd) | Red card

RC correct decision and Arg 10 should have also been given a YC for instigating it

NZ v FRA (2nd) | Red card

I have already emailed you all on this. Given the reverse angle shows a mitigating factor not seen by MO’s it’s a YC

JPN v ITA (2nd) | Swinging arm

Correct decision

TON v SAM | Swinging arm

No TMO did not help as direct contact with force to the head so RC

AUS v IRE (2nd) | Lifting Tackle

Correct decision

AUS v IRE (2nd) | Cynical Play

Correct outcome but this is not in protocol. There was luck involved with both this clip and the one below as you could argue a deliberate knock on

SA v ENG (2nd) | Cynical Play

As per my comments above


General Play

SA v ENG (2nd) | Blocking catcher

PK for obstruction

SA v ENG (2nd) | Blocking catcher

Good PK  



AUS v IRE (2nd) | Grounding

Good process and correct decision

SA v ENG (2nd) | Grounding

Question is if SA5 made it to his feet before attempting tackle. Reverse angle at 0.49 probably shows he has done enough and correct to award try

NZ v FRA (2nd) | Double movement

Correct decision

ARG v WAL (2nd) | Obstruction

No obstruction

AUS v IRE (2nd) | Penalty Try

Correct decision as pull down initiated before going into in goal

USA v SCO | Penalty Try

YC for high tackle but not a PT

SA v ENG (2nd) | Penalty Try

Once the scums pops up like this advantage cannot be played if ball is kept in the scrum. PT is wrong decision


Round 3

Foul Play

AUS v IRE (3rd) | Collision in the air

Correct decision as A15 also has hands on the body

AUS v IRE (3rd) | Elbow

YC is correct decision as lacking in force for RC – but close!

JPN v GEO | High Tackle

Correct decision



AUS v IRE (3rd) | TMO Review 1

In the context of what was at stake I can understand the review but it was clear from early on that no contact was made by Ire11 and process took too long

NZ v FRA (3rd) | TMO Review 2

While the law book with support this decision, the common sense approach should have been to award a scrum for causing an obstruction

NZ v FRA (3rd) | TMO Review 3

Ref said he saw grounding (wrongly) and in this case footage for TMO was clear the ball was held up. Messy process but correct outcome

JPN v GEO | TMO Review 4

Correct outcome but process took far too long

2017 High Tackle Directive

Hi All,

As we’re getting ready for the 2017 Spring season, I wanted to give some more detail on some of the big changes that are coming this season, mainly around the new high tackles directive and other law changes this year.

New High Tackle Directive:
We are seeing some confusion, and lack of clarity on the referee and coaching sides as to what actions we expect referees to take regarding high tackles. I.e. What exactly has changed since last year?
From what I can tell, there is a fairly broad agreement from the rugby community that bringing the height of the tackle down is a positive development, but there is some concern as to exactly what the different versions of a high tackle are, and fears about inconsistency amongst referees.
Let’s hit the second part first. It is almost inevitable that there will be inconsistency for the first few games of the year, until we all gain some experience with the new directive – be prepared to acknowledge that with coaches and players. But, also be prepared to be able to explain your actions and decisions.

Important to note that there has been no change to the laws regarding dangerous tackles, what has changed is that the referees are being instructed to increase the sanction for a particular subset of dangerous tackles – tackles involving contact with the head and neck areas.
In gross outline, what would most often have been a penalty only last season, is now a Penalty + Yellow Card, and what would have been a PK+YC last year is now to be judged as a PK + Red Card. The goal is not to have the refs give more cards, but rather to make the players change their behaviors and to tackle lower and more safely.

Here’s the directive we have received from USA Rugby as to how it is to be interpreted in games under their control:

This week rugby around the globe will see the implementation of a change in application for illegal (high) tackles and increased sanctions. 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.

Richard Every, High Performance Referee Manager for USA Rugby added, “Safety is paramount, and referees and players have a combined responsibility to ensure that the game is played with control and discipline. We welcome the direction and are providing additional GUIDANCE (below) to establish a consistent approach across all levels. There will undoubtedly be a period of adjustment for players and match officials, and we will support the transition through the referee department with open communication and continued education.”

This has not created new “illegal actions” but rather adjusts the standard on how dangerous actions are sanctioned. It does not allow the ball carrier to manufacture penalties. “Other phases” mentioned are aimed primarily at actions such as the “gator roll”, where there is a real risk of grasping the head/neck area. Fending off is still legal at all levels except high school.

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: Penalty & Yellow card / Maximum sanction: Penalty & Red card
GUIDANCE: It is a deliberate action from tackler. The onus is on the tackler to ensure the tackle is safe with regards to above the shoulder and contact in the head and neck area. It will be up to the referee to differentiate the severity of the tackle and what sanction is appropriate – a good process would be to combine the level of recklessness with the outcome and affect on the tackled player.

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
GUIDANCE: It is an accidental action from tackler. Contact above the shoulder in the head and neck area was not due to a deliberate or reckless action from the tackler.

For further guidelines please review the World Rugby release which includes several video examples: http://laws.worldrugby.org/?domain=9

Useful Video:
Sky Sports in the UK have released this video will former England center Will Greenwood and WR International referee John Lacey explaining some of the differences between Reckless and Accidental, and when you would determine whether a Reckless tackle should have a Yellow Card or a Red Card associated with it.

For those of you who like checklists, I’ve also seen it broken down this way (in terms of how a referee should look at the elements of an individual tackle):

Refs are judging according to 4 criteria:
1. Was there Foul play?
2. Did it Start high / direct contact to the head / rise up as part of the tackle?
3. Was it Out of control / should the tackler have known the hit would be high
4. Was it forceful?

Some mitigation taken into account if the ball carrier ducks into contact – so refs are bing asked to adjudicate who initiated contact, with onus on tackler to be the more responsible one involved.

If the ref sees the criteria above then the decision cycle is:
1+2 = Penalty Kick for foul play (Dangerous Tackle). Note: cumulative for team / repeat Foul play cards.
1+2+3 = PK + Yellow card
1+2+3+4 = PK + Red card

In adult rugby the “High Tackle line” is the line of the shoulders, in Youth and High School Rugby it is the line of the armpits

Global Law Changes:
USA Rugby has decided not to implement the 2017 Global law changes until August 1st 2017. So for the vast majority of us, no change.
For those who will referee or AR in BC, or in BCRU games, Rugby Canada IS implementing the Global Law changes as of January 1st 2017. There are 5 changes to law, some of which will make a significant difference to how incidents are adjudicated, so if you are assigned a Canadian game, please make sure you know what these changes are. Check in with Buckley, Clavin, Kautz, or Wickman if you need someone to talk them over with.

Oregon Rugby Referees Christmas Gathering - December 14, 2016

Oregon referees will gather for their seasonal celebration at 6:00 PM on December 14 at Lucky Lab Brewing, 915 SE Hawthorn Blvd., Portland, OR 97214 (between 9th & 10th Aves).

This promises to be a fun evening. Remember to:
Bring a Rugby related White Elephant wrapped gift to take part in the exchange.
No host food and beverages.
If you can, get there early and secure a couple of tables for the rest.
Please “No Cleats” and “No Tight Fitting Jerseys” !

PNRRS Policy on Referee Abuse

At the January 2016 PNRRS Executive meeting, the board members clarified their position of members being asked to referee clubs where there is a history of match official abuse. It was taken into account that the referee society is not and should not operate a disciplinary committee, as that is a function for the players unions, however given the persistence of the issue in the region, action was required to protect the interests of our members.

The document below outlines the updated policy.

PNRRS Policy Update 1 2016 – Referee Abuse


Pacific Northwest Rugby Referee Society

Updated policy on referee abuse, effective 1/1/2016 until superseded.

Despite progress being made by unions throughout the Pacific Northwest, abuse of match officials remains a significant issue both in our game and in our region.

In the Pacific NW region across all leagues, for the 2015 season, we averaged roughly one report per week of referee abuse; this ranged from over enthusiastic sidelines, through direct abuse from players and coaches, to physical confrontation between player and referee.

Nationally, this is a significant enough issue that in 2015, USA Rugby issued clear and specific guidelines to be followed by all referees in the USA on dealing with certain incidents of referee abuse.

Referee abuse remains one of the top reasons why rugby referees decide to stop refereeing, and is a major barrier to recruiting new match officials.

Updated policy:

It is clear that this is a situation that PNRRS must deal with. The numbers of incidents are too high, and in a scenario where we already have difficulty retaining competent match officials, having them retire due to actions of others is unacceptable.

However, it is also the strong opinion of PNRRS that operating a Disciplinary Committee is not the role of the Referee Society, and that any discipline of players, coaches, other officials, or teams is the purview of the leagues and unions to which the relevant clubs belong.

With that in mind, PNRRS has adopted the following policy update for incidents of referee abuse.

  1. 1)  All incidents of referee abuse, be it verbal, physical, or any other form of abuse, will be cited by the referee society to the relevant disciplinary committee using the formal citing process in place for the appropriate DC, usually those specified by World Rugby, and endorsed by USA Rugby.
  2. 2)  If a particular club has multiple incidents for referee abuse in a single season that are reported to the referee society and are determined to be real, the Referee Society shall consider those to be repeat infringements by the club.
    1. In determining what action to take, the principles of law 10.3 shall be applied.
    2. Where repeated infringements have been deemed to occur, the Referee Society shall, attheir sole discretion, decline to require their members to referee matches involving that club (either home or away) for the remainder of the season. The Referee Society is not disciplining the club, simply declining to put their members into a hostile or dangerous environment.

c. Such sanction will terminate at the end of the relevant season, or upon receipt from the club of evidence of practices put in place to reasonably ensure that the behavior will not recur.

d. For the purposes of administration, a ‘club’ is considered to be an entity registered as a club with USA Rugby’s CIPP system.

3) Realizing that adequate reporting of incidents of abuse is dependent information provided by the appropriate match official so that the Disciplinary Committees can do their work with full information, match officials shall be required to report incidents of abuse in the Match Report Form

a. Officials that supply inaccurate, misleading, or omitted information shall be subject to internal discipline by the Referee Society, including suspension from refereeing matches.

4) As a matter of practicality, any incidents that took place before January 1 2016 are not subject to this policy update.

Ratified by PNRRS Executive January 21, 2016

Changes to law and guidelines in immediate effect for rugby in the USA - January 29th, 2016

In a relatively unusual step, USA Rugby have issued a series of law and guideline changes mid-season, that are to be implemented immediately in all rugby played under the direction of USA Rugby.

Law Clarifications:

1 – Time at end of half or game.

Change: If there has been a score at the end of a half, and there is still time to take the consequent kick off; minor errors (such as kick not 10m) do not count as a dead ball situation, and time has not expired. There is still time to take the resulting scrum etc., as technically this is the same play as the kick off, and not a new play.

2 – Knock ons


a) if a tackling player makes contact with the ball, and it goes forward from the ball carrier’s hands, it IS a knock on.

b) if the tackler rips or deliberately knocks the ball so that it goes forward from the ball carrier, it IS NOT a knock on.

i.e. the referee is asked to adjudicate the intentionality of the ball contact by the tackling player.

3 – Conversions


1) Clarification that a team may opt not to take a conversion kick by the try scorer informing the referee.

2) If a team chooses not to take a conversion, there WILL be a kick off, regardless if the time had nominally expired.

4 – Time

Change: For questions on whether there is time available to take a kick off following a conversion. The time is considered as the time when the ball was struck. I.e. if a kick is taken at 79.59, there IS time for a kick off.

5 – clothing

Change: A Rugby Jersey is required to have sleeves.

6 – Forward pass into touch

Change: Currently 19.4 indicates that a knock on into touch results in an option to the non-offending team of a scrum or lineout. This is clarified to include ‘knock on or forward pass’


Minor law changes:

1 – law 3.5 number of players required to be front row capable plus impact on substitute numbers has been re-written for clarity. 

2 – A player who is injured and unable to continue in the game as a result of foul play may be replaced by a previously substituted player. Make sure you know the difference between replaced and substituted!

3 – Medically trained personnel (non-playing) may enter the field during play to tend an injured player. ALL others may only enter with specific referee permission.

4 – if it is safe, it is OK to play advantage after a collapsed scrum. It is not OK to play advantage if a scrum player is lifted into the air in a scrum.

5 – sevens. Conversion kick now has 30 seconds to be taken

6 – Deletes a seldom used provision of repeat infringement law requiring a red card for further team repeats after a yellow card already given. 

7 – faking, to get an opponent penalized is specifically out lawed. No diving in rugby. Penalty offence.

8 – FWD Pass; Now determined by whether the player’s arms moved towards the opposing dead ball line. Not hands, not ball, but arms.

9 – @ Lineout. No player may block the throw in or prevent the ball travelling 5 meters.

10 – form the scrum quickly. Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds of a referee making the mark

11 – If a scrum wheels through 90 degrees, a new scrum is formed with the put in to the same team that threw it in originally. (Used to be turn over ball on a wheel through 90)

12 – Defending scrum half at a scrum may not move into space between flanker and no. 8.

13 – When forming a scrum, Fronts rows must interlock ear against ear.

14 – Use it or lose it introduced at scrums. Ball may be at feet of hindmost player for 3-5 seconds before it must be played.

15 – All penalty kicks awarded within 5m of a goal line are taken at the 5m line. Used to be just the attacking team moved to the 5.

World Rugby Clarification: Kicking the Ball Out of a Player's Hands

World Rugby has issued another clarification.  This addresses kicking the ball out of the hands of another player.  That has always been specifically prohibited when a player is attempting to touch the ball down for a try, but it was not addressed for more general situations.  This clarification makes it clear – that action is illegal and dangerous and should be penalized. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mONaLz6Ry4&feature=youtu.be

The full clarification can be read at Clarification 1016

World Rugby: Dangerous Tackle Memorandum

World rugby released a memorandum on dangerous tackles a couple of days back; clarifying two aspects and reemphasizing the need to take tackles around the neck and head out of the game.

Even though they may not technically be a tackle, the following situations are to be considered as dangerous play, and acted on accordingly:

1) the “alligator roll” clear out at the breakdown, where a player removes an opponent by binding on to them and rolling off the breakdown. If the contact is above the line of the shoulders (armpits in youth rugby) it is dangerous play.

2) the “choke tackle”, where a potential tackler grasps the ball carrier high, in an effort to prevent him/her going to ground. If the contact is above the shoulders (armpits in youth rugby) then it is dangerous play.