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

At the start of the new Law Review cycle (2019 – 2023), the Rugby Committee and Law Review group requested that a specialist breakdown group was formed. This group met via teleconference in September 2019 and then face-to-face in March 2020.

The group was chaired by John Jeffrey and comprised the following:

  • Coaches: Richie Gray; Russell Earnshaw; Ian Foster & Joe Schmidt
  • Referees: Wayne Barnes & Jaco Peyper
  • Players: Victor Vito & Josh Beaumont
  • Medical & Research: Eanna Falvey & Ross Tucker
  • World Rugby staff: Mark Harrington & Rhys Jones

This guideline contains a summary of the group’s conclusions.

For more information,

read the detailed rationale with more video examples.

The group agreed that there was no need for new laws or law change, rather a re-focus on existing law. This law application guideline is being issued now to inform the rugby community of the findings of this group. Competitions that are already underway should continue with the law and referee coaching process that they have been using all season. These guidelines should be implemented at the start of the next competition window. In terms of international rugby, all games will be refereed with these guidelines from July 2020.

1

Tackler

LAW 14: Tackle

5. Tacklers must:

a. Immediately release the ball and the ball-carrier after both players go to ground.

b. Immediately move away from the tackled player and from the ball or get up.

  • Tackler must release
  • Once the tackle is complete, the tackler may contest possession, providing that the player is on their feet, has shown a clear release of the ball and tackled player and arrives from the direction of their own goal line
  • Tackler must roll away

2

Ball carrier

LAW 14: Tackle

2. Being brought to ground means that the ball-carrier is lying, sitting or has at least one knee on the ground or on another player who is on the ground.

5. Tacklers must:

d. Allow the tackled player to release or play the ball.

  • Ball carrier must place or play the ball immediately – the ball carrier should not be allowed time for a second movement such as rolling, crawling, bouncing etc
  • When the ball-carrier’s knee touches the ground, the tackler must release immediately

3

First arriving player

LAW 15: Ruck

11. Once a ruck has formed, no player may handle the ball unless they were able to get their hands on the ball before the ruck formed and stay on their feet.

12. Players must endeavour to remain on their feet throughout the ruck.

  • A “jackler” is a player who wins possession of the ball before a ruck forms
  • Reward the player who wins the race for possession
  • Remove the concept of the jackler “surviving the clear out” by opposition players
  • The jackler must be in a strong position to try and lift, with hands on the ball
  • The jackler must support their body weight throughout – no going to ground and then resetting

4

Other arriving players

LAW 15: Ruck

5. An arriving player must be on their feet and join from behind their offside line.

6. A player may join alongside but not in front of the hindmost player.

10. Possession may be won either by rucking or by pushing the opposing team off the ball.

  • Enforce the tackle gate and penalise side entries into the ruck
  • Encourage arriving players to drive and bind to opponents rather than diving in or tackling them
  • Examples of counter ruck