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Definitions
A Team. A team consists of fifteen players who start the match plus any authorised replacements and/or substitutes.
Replacement. A player who replaces an injured team-mate.
Substitute. A player who replaces a team-mate for tactical reasons.
3.1 Maximum number of players on the playing area

Maximum: each team must have no more than fifteen players on the playing area during play.

3.2 Team with more than the permitted number of players
Objection: at any time before or during a match a team may make an objection to the referee about the number of players in their opponents’ team. As soon as the referee knows that a team has too many players, the referee must order the captain of that team to reduce the number appropriately. The score at the time of the objection remains unaltered.

Sanction: Penalty at the place where the match would restart.

3.3 When there are fewer than fifteen players

A Union may authorise matches to be played with fewer than fifteen players in each team. When that happens, all the Laws of the Game apply except that each team must have at least five players in the scrum at all times.

Exception: matches between teams of Seven-a-side are an exception. These matches are covered by the Seven-a-side Variations to the Laws of the Game.
3.4 Players nominated as substitutes

(a)

For international matches a Union may nominate up to eight replacements/substitutes.

(b)

For other matches, the Union or match organiser with jurisdiction over the match decides how many replacements/substitutes may be nominated to a maximum of eight.

(c)

A Union (or Unions, where a match or competition is played between teams from two or more Unions) may decide how many replacements/substitutes may be nominated to a maximum of eight.

(d)

A team can substitute up to three front row players (subject to Law 3.5 (b) and (c)) and up to five other players.

(e)

Substitutions may only be made when the ball is dead and with the permission of the referee.

3.5 The front row - replacements and substitions

(a)

It is the team’s responsibility to ensure that all front row players and potential front row replacements are suitably trained. It is not for the referee to determine whether any player is suitably trained to play in the front row.

(b)

The table below indicates the minimum number of front row players by squad size and the minimum replacement obligations:

Squad size
Minimum number of front row players in the squad
Must be able to replace at the first time of asking
15 or less

3

16, 17 or 18

4

Either prop or hooker

19, 20, 21 or 22

5

Either prop or hooker

23

6

Loose-head prop, tight-head prop and hooker

A Union may, having taken player welfare into account, amend the minimum number of front row players in the squad and the minimum replacement obligations at defined levels of the Game within its jurisdiction.

Where the Union/match organiser has determined squad sizes of 23 and a team is only able to nominate two front row replacements, then that team may nominate only 22 players in their squad.

(c)

Prior to the match, each team must advise the referee of their front row players and potential front row replacements and only these players may play in the front row when the scrum is contested.

(d)

A replacement front row player may start the match in another position.

Variations
3.6 Uncontested scrums

(a)

Scrums will become uncontested if either team cannot field a suitably trained front row or if the referee so orders.

(b)

Unions/match organisers may determine whether or not a game may start or continue with uncontested scrums.

(c)

When a front row player leaves the playing area, whether through injury or temporary or permanent suspension, the referee will enquire at that time whether the team can continue with contested scrums. If the referee is informed that the team will not be able to contest the scrum then the referee will order uncontested scrums. If the player returns or another front row player comes on then contested scrums may resume.

(d)

In a squad of 23 players, or at the discretion of the Union/match organiser, a player whose departure has caused the referee to order uncontested scrums cannot be replaced.

(e)

If they are available, a team must have three front row players in the front row at all times. In an uncontested scrum, only when there is no available front row replacement or substitute is any other player permitted to play in the front row.

(f)

If, as a result of a front row player being temporarily suspended, another player has to be nominated by the team to leave the playing area to enable an available front row player to come on, the nominated player may not return until the period of suspension ends.

(g)

If, as a result of a front row player being sent off, another player has to be nominated by the team to leave the playing area to enable an available front row player to come on, the nominated player may act as a replacement/substitute.

LAW AMENDMENT TRIAL

(h)

Uncontested scrums as a result of a sending off, temporary suspension or injury must be played with eight players per side.

3.7 Sent off for foul play

A player sent off for foul play must not be replaced or substituted. For an exception to this Law, refer to Law 3.5.

3.8 Permanent replacement

A player may be permanently replaced if injured. If the player is permanently replaced, that player must not return and play in that match. The replacement of the injured player must be made when the ball is dead and with the permission of the referee.

3.9 The decision for permanent replacement

(a)

When a national representative team is playing in a match, a player may be replaced only when, in the opinion of a doctor, the player is so injured that it would be unwise for that player to continue playing in that match.

(b)

In other matches, where a Union has given explicit permission, an injured player may be replaced on the advice of a medically trained person. If none is present, that player may be replaced if the referee agrees.

3.10 The referee’s power to stop an injured player from continuing

If the referee decides – with or without the advice of a doctor or other medically qualified person – that a player is so injured that the player should stop playing, the referee may order that player to leave the playing area. The referee may also order an injured player to leave the field in order to be medically examined.

3.11 Temporary replacement - blood injury

(a)

When a player has a blood injury, which has uncontrolled active bleeding (a blood injury), that player may be temporarily replaced. The injured player must return to play as soon as the bleeding has been controlled and/or covered. If the player who has been temporarily replaced is not available to return to the field of play within 15 minutes (actual time) of leaving the playing area, the replacement becomes permanent and the replaced player must not return to the field of play.

(b)

In international matches, the Match Day Doctor shall decide whether an injury is a blood injury necessitating a temporary replacement.

(c)

Minor cuts and abrasions not constituting a blood injury should be treated during stoppages in play for other reasons.

(d)

If the temporary replacement is injured, that player may also be replaced.

(e)

If the temporary replacement is sent off for foul play, the replaced player may not return to the field of play.

(f)

If the temporary replacement is cautioned and temporarily suspended, the replaced player may not return to the field of play until after the period of suspension.

3.12 Temporary replacement - Head Injury Assessment

If, at any point during a match, a player is concussed or has suspected concussion, that player must be immediately and permanently removed from the field of play. This is known as “Recognise and Remove”.

In elite adult matches only, which have been approved in advance by World Rugby (pursuant to Regulations 10.1.4 and 10.1.5) for use of the Head Injury Assessment and this temporary replacement procedure, a player who is to have a Head Injury Assessment :

  • Must leave the field of play; and
  • Shall be temporarily replaced (even if all of the substitutes/replacements have been used).

This is to allow for the assessment of a player where it is not immediately apparent if the player has concussion or suspected concussion and should be permanently removed from the field of play.

Where such a player has been temporarily replaced:

(a)

If that player is not presented to a match official on the touchline within ten minutes (actual time) of leaving the field of play to undergo the Head Injury Assessment, the replacement will automatically become permanent and the replaced player is not allowed to return to the field of play.

(b)

If the temporary replacement takes place within the ten minutes before half-time, the replacement shall become permanent unless the replaced player returns to the field of play immediately at the start of the second-half.

(c)

The temporary replacement can be temporarily replaced if the player requires a Head Injury Assessment (even if all of the replacements have been used).

(d)

If the temporary replacement is ordered off the field for foul play, the replaced player shall not be allowed to return to the field of play, except in accordance with Law 3.5 (The Front Row – Replacements and Substitutions) and Law 3.14 (Substituted Players Rejoining The Match), and only if the player has been medically cleared to do so and is presented to a match official on the touchline within ten minutes (actual time) of leaving the field of play to undergo the Head Injury Assessment.

(e)

If the temporary replacement is cautioned and temporarily suspended, the replaced player is not permitted to return to the field of play until after the period of suspension, except in accordance with Law 3.5 (The Front Row – Replacements and Substitutions) and Law 3.14 (Substituted Players Rejoining The Match), and only if the player has been medically cleared to do so and is presented to a match official on the touchline within ten minutes (actual time) of leaving the field of play to undergo the Head Injury Assessment.

Variations
3.13 Player wishing to rejoin the match

(a)

A player who has a blood injury which has uncontrolled active bleeding must leave the playing area. The player must not return until the bleeding is controlled and the wound has been covered.

(b)

A player who leaves a match because of injury or any other reason must not rejoin the match until the referee permits the player to return. The referee must not let a player rejoin a match until the ball is dead.

(c)

If a player rejoins or a replacement/substitute joins the match without the referee’s permission, and the referee believes the player did so to help that player’s team or obstruct the opposing team, the referee penalises the player for misconduct.

Sanction: A penalty kick is awarded at the place where play would restart.

3.14 Substituted players rejoining the match

If a player is substituted, that player may only return to play when replacing:

  • an injured front row player in accordance with Law 3.5
  • a player with a blood injury in accordance with Law 3.11
  • a player undertaking a Head Injury Assessment in accordance with Law 3.12
  • a player who has been injured as a result of foul play (as verified by the Match Officials).
3.15 Rolling substitutions

A Union may implement rolling substitutions at defined levels of the Game within its jurisdiction. The number of substitutions must not exceed twelve. The administration and rules relating to rolling substitutions are the responsibility of the Union having jurisdiction.