Law Discussion: Red for replacement

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 00:00
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There is always something new in rugby. You may have thought you have seen it all when something new crops up - this time a red card for a player that left his side playing with 15 men.

There is always something new in rugby. You may have thought you have seen it all when something new crops up - this time a red card for a player that left his side playing with 15 men.

Seen that before?

Toulouse play Harlequins in Toulouse. Early in the second half Harlequins flank Will Skinner is replaced by Luke Wallace. As is usual Skinner, coated against the cold, takes his place on the replacement bench - in this case a chair. After all he could be required to replace a bleeding player.

There is a minute left on the clock and Harlequins lead 31-24, an upset in a match of increasing excitement.

Toulouse are on the attack well inside the Harlequins 22 when Vincent Clerc charges but Mike Brown wins a turnover off him about 12 metres from the Harlequins' line. Danny Care passes back to Nick Evans who is inside his in-goal. Evans kicks for touch on his left and the ball flies out near the Harlequins' 10-metre line.

Maxime Médard, the Toulouse fullback, is waiting to catch the ball as Toulouse need to play quickly if they want a draw - and they certainly want a draw. But Skinner comes off his chair towards the field of play and plays the ball before Médard can catch it. Skinner's intervention nullifies Toulouse's chances of having a quick throw-in.

The referee, vastly experienced Alain Rolland, runs straight to Skinner and shows him a red card. Skinner's jersey number is noted and he is escorted from the field.

Play resumes with a line-out to Toulouse.

Have you seen that before? A red card that does not affect Harlequins' numbers and not followed by a penalty.

Is this right?

What right did the referee have to send Skinner packing?

Will Skinner have to appear before a disciplinary committee?

First of all, what Skinner did was wrong, and he did it deliberately. What he does is wrong because what he did was against the letter and spirit of the laws of the Game.

Foul play is anything a player does within the playing enclosure that is against the letter and spirit of the Laws of the Game. It includes obstruction, unfair play, repeated infringements, dangerous play and misconduct which is prejudicial to the Game.

What Skinner does is foul play. Note that foul play can be 'within the playing enclosure'.

The referee's jurisdiction extends to the whole playing enclosure.

(a) The referee is the sole judge of fact and of Law during a match. The referee must apply fairly all the Laws of the Game in every match.

Playing enclosure?

The Playing Enclosure is the playing area and a space around it, not less than 5 metres where practicable, which is known as the perimeter area.

Skinner was within the playing enclosure.

But an International Board ruling/clarification of 2006 goes beyond that. It states:

From the time the referee blows the whistle to start the match and blows it to finish the match, including half time, the Laws of Rugby and appropriate sanctions apply. The definition of 'person' includes players and team officials if they are in the playing enclosure, and the latter can be dealt with in the same way as a player.

For incidents in the dressing room and en route to and from the dressing room, IRB Regulation 17.21 Misconduct can be applied which also covers non-players.

Skinner could be dealt with in the same was a player.

Could he be penalised?

He has acted as a player. He has given his team a 16th man. He has rejoined play without permission and obstructed the opposition. He is liable to a penalty.

Law 3.11 (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.

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 game would restart.

To sum up: what Skinner did was wrong; the referee was within his rights to act against Skinner; the referee could have penalised Skinner should he have wanted to.

It is normal for a red-carded player to be required to appear before a disciplinary hearing.