Law discussion: Long arm of the Law

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 08:15
Large lood de jager line out 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at "long-arm transfer to the back" that occurred during the match between the Wallabies and the Springboks.

Early in the match between Australia and South Africa, Adriaan Strauss, the South African hooker, throws the ball into a line-out.

After a bit of choreography, Lood de Jager of South Africa goes up to catch the ball and when he comes down he hands it to Francois Louw who is standing waiting for it. The other South African forwards - Tendai Mtawarira, Warren Whitely, Eben Etzebeth and Lourens Adriaanse - pack around De Jager as if to form a maul while the Australian forwards desist from contact.

There is thus no maul formed.

The referee penalises the South Africans saying: "Long-arm transfer to the back." Presumably, de Jager is the player penalised.

This is in accord with a law application guidelines decided on for this year. It is not in the Laws of the Game nor in amendments nor in clarifications. For this reason, it may not be well known.

The relevant guideline is as follows:

The maul

For implementation:
January 1st 2016 in Southern Hemisphere
June 1st 2016 in Northern Hemisphere

The ball can be moved backwards hand-to-hand once the maul has formed. A player is not allowed to move/slide backwards in the maul when the player is in possession of the ball and the ripper needs to stay in contact with the jumper until they have transferred the ball.
Sanction: Penalty kick

Ball carrier moves/slides towards the back of the maul whilst in possession of the ball - in the future this will be PENALISED
Long placements are to be avoided as they often lead to obstruction and invite attacking players to join in front of the ball. In the future this will be PENALISED.

There is no maul in this incident, no case of "when the maul was formed". There was an attempt to form a maul and there may well have been one if the Australians had played along. But there is no maul with no contact with opponents till Sekope Kepu of Australia grabbed Louw, which he had free access to doing.

A maul begins when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball-carrier’s team-mates bind on the ball-carrier. A maul therefore consists, when it begins, of at least three players, all on their feet; the ball-carrier and one player from each team.

But imagine that there was a maul and De Jager had then passed the ball back to Louw without any contact between Louw and De Jager then, according to this guideline, there would have been a penalty, presumably against De Jager for handing the ball back "long-arm" or against Louw for not making contact with De Jager.

The piecemeal changes or additions to law applications, as has been happening of late, is bound to cause uncertainty.