World Rugby Laws - World Rugby's Law Education Web Site
Laws have moved to:
    Enforcement of current law - refereeing at the breakdown
    March 2020

    Key points for players, coaches and referees


    That the breakdown is coached according to the spirit of the laws, is played in a positive and accurate manner and is refereed consistently.


    Tackler is still the first priority

    Tackler must still release and get out of the way immediately.

    Stand up tackle

    Ball carrier will be given time to get to ground. A tackle will be called when the ball carrier clearly gets a knee to the ground. A maul will be called when defenders stop the momentum of the ball carrier and successfully hold him/her up. Maul side entry and collapse will be refereed.

    Ball carrier

    Ball carrier is limited to one dynamic and immediate movement. More onus on ball carrier presenting or releasing the ball more quickly.


    First arriving player must enter legally, be on their feet and on the ball, with an attempt to lift it. Likely to be rewarded more quickly and there is no longer the expectation to “survive the clear out”.

    Other arriving players

    Side entry will be refereed. LA entry expectation with players required to “drive not dive”.

    Foul play

    This will continue to be a priority in the interests of player safety.


    Processing and assessing by the referee as to who has the numbers and is in the strongest position overall.

    • The attack and defensive breakdown is dynamic, most often with many moving parts
    • The referee will have an overall sense of who has the ‘balance of power’
    • Tackler away?
    • Ball carrier isolated?
    • Jackler first player?
    • Reward sooner
    • Widen radar for side entry
    • Arriving players




    Tackler release

    Tackler must release and move immediately to allow the ball to be played.

    East / west roll

    Stop tacklers rolling towards attack entry.

    Pinning / taking the space

    Stop tackler pinning ball carrier on their backs or holding onto them to hinder their presentation and also to stop them standing up on attack side – ‘taking the space’.

    Tackler release and counter

    Tackler must release the ball carrier. Then, must be on own side and on feet to attack the ball.


    Tackled player and attack support player should not trap the tackler intentionally in an attempt to buy a penalty.


    Stand up tackles - Tackle

    Tackler must release when ball carrier gets to ground

    The attacking team will be given a reasonable chance to get to ground.

    Knee to ground

    A tackle will be called when the ball carrier clearly gets a knee to the ground.

    Stand up tackles - Maul

    Stop momentum

    A maul will be called when defenders stop the momentum of the ball carrier and successfully hold the ball carrier up.

    Maul called and refereed as such

    If “maul” is called, the officials will referee side entry and collapse.


    Ball carrier



    The ball carrier must present or play the ball immediately with one dynamic movement prior to ball presentation.

    Extra roll / elbow crawl, etc

    There should be no roll forward or elbow crawl to gain ground or destabilise jackler.

    Squeeze ball clamp

    A ball carrier who ends up in the squeeze ball position (ball under body when tackled in a long body position) will be penalised if the jackler ‘clamp steals’, i.e., arms around body and with hands on ball.


    Not held / ball release

    If clearly not held to ground, the ball carrier can still carry on getting back to feet. Also, if player releases the ball after being tackled and gets up, that player can then pick up the ball and carry on.


    First arriving player (jackler)


    Enter legally

    The jackler must enter the breakdown legally, from the direction of their own goal line.

    Clear release

    If the jackler is an assist tackler, they must show a clear release.

    On feet, strong position

    The jackler must be on their feet, showing strong body position.

    Elbows and forearms off ground

    No elbows / forearms should be on the ground.

    Hands on ball attempting to lift

    The jackler must have hands on the ball and must be attempting to lift the ball.


    Survive the clean

    Referees will not now expect the jackler to ‘survive the clear out’, if they have achieved the points above.

    Clamp steal

    ‘Clamp steal’ means arms around body with hands on ball. Forearms might touch the ground if ball presenter is lying prone.


    Arriving players


    Direction of goal line

    An attacking support player must arrive from the direction of their own goal line.

    Square up

    The attacking support player must enter the tackle zone relatively square facing toward the opposition goal line.

    Angle in

    An attacking support player who does the above, can then angle in to clean out an opponent.

    Drive not dive

    Arriving players must ‘Drive not dive’ to clear out an opponent. Shorten steps and bind, not dive off feet.

    Cannot seal off

    Attacking support players cannot come off their feet to seal off the contest.


    Backside to touchline

    Backside should not be facing touchline on entry (arrive from depth and within LA entry).

    Tacklers landing on ball carrier

    Arriving players can legally drive away tacklers who land on top of the ball carrier (but should not be with a tucked arm action). Referees will also look to be more stringent on slow movers.

    No diving on tackler

    Arriving play cannot dive upon the tackler. They also cannot tackle players who are not near the ball or take players too far beyond the breakdown.



    Foul play


    Arriving players must not commit any foul play offence or play that may be deemed to be dangerous.

    Lifting legs above horizontal

    Arriving players must not lift a players leg(s) above horizontal.

    Shoulder charging

    Arriving players must not charge into player’s contesting the ball or on the ground near the ball.

    Neck grabs / rolls

    Arriving players must not wrap and roll the neck of the jackler to remove them from the contest.


    An arriving player cannot stamp on any other player.