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.