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Law Discussion: England's try

Tue, 26 Feb 2013 14:19
Tuilagi-scores-corner630

The referee freekicks France for early engagement at a scrum. Andy Goode of England steps up and kicks a high up-and-under. England players chase after the ball.

Vincent Clerc of France fails to catch the ball which is knocked back to Yannick Nyanga, the French flank. England players drive onto Nyanga who loses the ball backwards., The ball is on the ground with players on their feet near it. Tom Wood, the England No.8, kicks the ball forward. It bangs into the leg of Mako Vunipola. From Vunipola's leg the ball squirts out the side of the group of players where Manu Tuilagi picks up the ball. He sets off for the goal-line 40 metres away as Clerc chases him. Tuilagi scores.

OK?

Certainly not. Vunipola was in front of Wood. Vunipola was in front of a team-mate who last played the ball. He was in an offside position.

Law 11 DEFINITIONS
In general play a player is offside if the player is in front of a team-mate who is carrying the ball, or in front of a team-mate who last played the ball. Offside means that a player is temporarily out of the game. Such players are liable to be penalised if they take part in the game.

Penalty?

Law 11.1 OFFSIDE IN GENERAL PLAY
(a) A player who is in an offside position is liable to sanction only if the player does one of three things:
• Interferes with play or,
• Moves forward, towards the ball or
• Fails to comply with the 10-Metre Law (Law 11.4).
A player who is in an offside position is not automatically penalised.

That would suggest the Vunipola should have been penalised. But...

Law 11.6 ACCIDENTAL OFFSIDE
(a) When an offside player cannot avoid being touched by the ball or by a team-mate carrying it, the player is accidentally offside. If the player’s team gains no advantage from this, play continues. If the player’s team gains an advantage, a scrum is formed with the opposing team throwing in the ball.

Vunipola did not try to play the ball and standing there he had no way of avoiding the short kick,

It should have been a scrum to England.

Easy to detect?

No, not at all. There was a forest of legs and it all happened so quickly.

Ask the TMO?

The referee of the day was not allowed to by the regulations of the Six Nations. He would have loved to use the extended TMO protocol as used in most of the world. That would have allowed him to go back and examine what happened at this incident. It would have enabled the TMO to advise him that it should not have been a try to England but a scrum to France.

The referee would have been used to using it and seeing it used. It may, of course, have made him less alert than he would have been were there none of these aids. But it's hard to justify the reason for not using what is available. It's not as if the TMO would take over the match.

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